It’s the morning of June 25, 2000.
I zip myself into my favourite skirt- suit. It’s the suit in which I was “baptized” as a lawyer. This time the skirt is hemmed 2 inches shorter, to give me the more contemporary look, I didn’t dare project on the day of my call to the Bar. I have my signature ponytail and bangs in place, with a touch of eyeliner, no “ponds” and a smattering of lip gloss. I am propelled by 4 inch high- heeled shoes.
My 26 year old “power look”.
I am at the back of a rumbling taxi on my way to a job interview at AB & David, (then General Law Consult). I don’t know what to expect. The names of the partners don’t ring a bell. In a profession, where the right last name gives you leverage, my mum’s encouragement that I go for the interview whether or not the partners are big-wigs is assuring. My dear mother. Bless her heart!
I am getting close to the offices – 2nd floor Kingsway Building. I look over the copy of my application letter. I am tickled as I read the words, “I offer enthusiasm and a commitment to hard-work”. Words borrowed from a worn-out interview guide. Nothing original. I am feeling pretty smug, the application letter got me the interview. Then I get anxious – what if the other interviewees have also used that line? I reassure myself that the partners will be impressed nonetheless, because I bothered to research even my application letter. It’s a comforting thought. I hold on to it.
We are at Kingsway now. I am a bit anxious. I look in the driver’s mirror to assess the damage the wind and dust (gushing through the open windows of the taxi) have done to my signature bangs. My efforts are thwarted by the driver who appears consumed with preening his “5,5” side burns just as I am with my look. I lose out on the contest. My reflection on the side of the car will have to do. I tell myself, I am good to go.
I totter on my heels through the car park and up the stairs to General Law Consult. My feet are killing me.
“Mr. Ofosu-Dorte” will see you in five 5 minutes.”
I am ushered into a not so impressive office. I make a mental comparison of my surroundings to that of Laryea & Laryea where I was a pupil. This office pales in comparison.
“I am David Ofosu – Dorte. I am the Managing Partner of General Law Consult.”
He appears warm and friendly. I relax but only momentarily. He goes straight for the jugular, “Why should we hire you?”. That was not the interview sequence my “treasure scroll” promised. I am thrown for a few seconds and regain my balance by repeating the borrowed words in my application letter. I take a gamble on my come back response. It has the potential to rub him the wrong way. But there is nothing else to say so I go with the flow. “The five or so people I told I was going for an interview at General Law Consult asked me, Who are they? What are the names of the Partners?” I notice a faint smile at the corners of his mouth. He appears amused. I am emboldened and proceed. “I think that it will be exciting to be part of building something completely new where you have no leg up and have to build a business and reputation from ground zero.”
My comeback works. The interaction moves from an interview into a conversation. He talks to me about his vision to create a business law firm and the opportunities this presents. It all sounds too grand to me. I haven’t heard anyone articulate a vision so passionately. It’s difficult not to be impressed – But yet still with unspoken cynicism. My mind says “huh”, “really”? “this guy is one hell of a dreamer”.
I just want to start work. It’s my escape from the rigour of working with my pupil master, Kenneth Laryea, (God rest his soul), a super hardworking and diligent lawyer. I am totally oblivious to the fact that I have literally, voluntarily, entered the den of the task master of all task masters. But the 6 months with Kenneth Laryea will serve as a great hor d’oeuvre for this journey. Back then, I was either too young, too unexposed or just too ignorant to appreciate that there is no escaping hard-work and diligence.
The interview is over. I am on my way home. Reliving what just transpired. I feel an excitement enveloping me, my words at the interview seem to be gaining life. I really do want to be part of something new!
20 years on, my permed straight bangs have given way to kinky twists, my 4 inch high heels to safe 2 inch kitten heels and my miniskirts to sensible length dresses. But that is not all that has changed about me.
I know now, that a challenge provides you with the greatest opportunity to defy even your own beliefs about yourself, to unveil moment by moment, a better version of YOU. I know that the worst that can happen when you work with others to create and pursue a vision, are some sleepless nights and some discomfort in your zone- a small price to pay for uncluttering your mind to see new possibilities. And that whether or not you go the distance, or make a detour, or take the bend or hit a cross-road, the life lessons you will garner from a walk with a visionary will ultimately be life changing.
And, I definitely don’t scorn small beginnings. I dare not. It is what opened the door of opportunity to me, and gave me the “audacity” to share this story.
Isabel Boaten is the Managing Partner of AB & David Ghana, a business law firm in Ghana, which is the founding member of the Pan African law firm, AB & David Africa. She is married to Kofi Apeagyei and has two sons, Kojo and Papa Kofi. Isabel was named as a woman in law to watch, by the Institute of African Women In Law in August 2020. She is also a lecturer in Law Practice Management at the Ghana School of Law.