This month we chat to Ral Obioha, a lawyer on a mission to inspire others. Before starting her own firm, Law Office of Ral Obioha, Ral worked in one of the largest plaintiff’s Personal Injury firms in Texas representing clients in high profile auto and 18-wheeler trucking accident cases, as well as, premises liability and product liability cases. Law Office of Ral Obioha, PLLC, is a boutique law firm committed to providing tailored quality legal services to individuals, families, and businesses in Houston, Texas, and well beyond.
With a focus on sophisticated legal solutions, the Law Office of Ral Obioha provides legal client services in the areas of immigration and nationality law, personal injury law, business law and contract law.
This phenomenal woman in law holds several degrees, which include a Juris Doctorate degree from Howard University School of Law, a Masters of Law Summa Cum Laude from American University Washington College of Law and a dual Bachelor’s degree in History and Psychology Magna Cum Laude from Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia.
FWIL:What is your area of expertise?
RO:I practice Immigration and Nationality law, Personal Injury, Business/Contracts and Estate Planning. I am also very passionate about and involved in the International Human Rights practice.
FWIL:What inspired you to study law?
RO:I was inspired by my mother, Mrs. Theodora Oby Nwankwo, who was a lawyer, a renowned International Human Rights advocate and retired Chief Magistrate from Nigeria. She was very passionate about human rights and using her law degree to enhance the lives of others. I grew up watching her and wanting to be just like her. I was lucky enough to have spent a lot of time traveling with her and learning from her. She recently passed away less than a year ago.
FWIL:As a woman in law, have you experienced gender bias? If yes, How have you dealt with it?
RO:Yes. It is often very disheartening to be judged solely based on your gender. I have dealt with it by focusing on the value of my work. Like my mother always said, “Nothing succeeds like success”. At the end, the value in the work I do speaks louder than any bias anyone has against me.
FWIL:What does being an alpha female mean to you?
RO:An alpha female is focused, strong, determined, hardworking, confident and independent. An alpha female takes every setback as an opportunity to spring forward. Although she is imperfect, she loves herself anyway. She can cry at night but come morning, she tucks her insecurities away, dusts off the hate and continues working towards her goal.
FWIL:The journey of most legal professionals is not always an easy one. What are some of the lessons you have learned along the way and how have they shaped your outlook on life?
RO:During my journey, I have learned to always trust my instincts, to never stop moving toward my goal, and most of all, that it’s okay to be scared of my dreams. As soon as I came to terms with these facts, I realized that I could achieve anything I set my mind to. Like my father used to say, “those who achieved it already don’t have two heads.”
FWIL:What is the best advice you would give to aspiring legal professionals?
RO:Get a mentor (or two or three!) Someone who is where (or on a sure track towards) you want to be. Of course, you have to be willing to put in the necessary work, and “do the time.” A good mentor can change your career and steer you towards the right direction on your career.
FWIL:What tips would you give on how to survive law school?
RO:Stay focused. Get outlines from previous classes. Buy hornbooks. Network with your professors. Participate in class. Get some rest. Buy used textbooks. Don’t get distracted by anything or anyone. Do externships. GET A MENTOR (or two or three!)
FWIL:What are some of things that you had to re-learn and unlearn in the process of setting up your law firm?
RO:While setting up my law firm, the most important thing I had to learn was about myself. I had to sit down and actually write out my mission, goals, business plan, and five-year-plan. It was much harder than I thought, but it was just what I needed to guide me. I had to unlearn the preconceived notion that all I had to do in my law firm was practice law. A law practice is also a business and has to be managed as one. I am still in the processing of reconciling that with my zeal to personally connect with my clients.
FWIL:What are some of the top career and business goals that you are currently working on?
RO:My ultimate goal is to help unite immigrant families seeking better opportunities by providing personalized attention to their legal needs. I am also currently working on my social media presence. I often get so busy, I neglect it. However, social media is an important tool to use to connect with my clients and people who need my services the most.
FWIL:What skills do you think every young woman lawyer (or aspirant) needs to have?
- Analytical ability.
- Clear Focus
- Thick skin
- Attention to detail.
- Logical reasoning
- Clarity of Goals
- Sound judgment.
- Writing ability
FWIL:As a business owner, what is the key in keeping great reviews?
RO:Prioritize quality in your work and services. Maintain a great rapport with your clients. Happy clients = Great reviews = Happy lawyer 😉
FWIL:What recent change/amendment in the law has caught your attention? (do you agree with the change? Why/why not)
RO:In the United States, there have been numerous changes in immigration law, which in my opinion, were drafted by the current administration to create an invisible wall to keep immigrants out of the United States. The United States is a melting pot. Immigrants are part of the framework on which the United States is built and continually progresses. Instead of creating barriers, we should create lawful paths by which immigrants can create a better life for their families while contributing to the community and economy.
FWIL:The world is constantly changing, in your opinion, what are some of the challenges that legal professionals will face in future?
RO:The internet is a double-edged sword. In the recent years, there has been an advent of numerous websites that provide templates and encourage individuals to perform legal services without seeking professional legal help. I have a lot of clients who only retained me after they tried to perform a legal task by themselves and failed woefully, creating an almost irreparable mess. They end up paying more for my services to clean it up than they would have paid if they retained me from the beginning. In the future, one can only envision that that this may continue and perhaps, get worse.
FWIL:As a legal professional, it is quite important to effectively use your network. How do you meet other legal professionals and what are some of your effective networking skills?
RO:I am a member of various legal organizations, including the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Texas Young Lawyers Association, etc. As a member of these communities, I get to meet a lot of legal professionals at meetings, conferences and networking events. I also regularly attend conferences, talks, etc. hosted by the United Nations where I meet international human rights professionals. Furthermore, I often volunteer alongside other legal professionals at local legal clinics to tend to the needs of members of my community who cannot afford to pay legal fees.
FWIL:What does the term “role model” mean to you? Which phenomenal woman in law would you call your role model?
RO:A role model is someone I admire and can look up to as an example to emulate. My role model is my mother, Mrs. Theodora Nwankwo. According to a tribute article published in her honour, “Mrs. Obiageli Nwankwo was ranked among the most distinguished women’s human rights in Africa in the last two decades. Oby’s name features prominently in gender rights and gender politics discourses in Africa and at the United Nations. Oby was elected as a member of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Expert Committee in January 2013. She was re-elected to serve another four years in 2016. Before death came calling, Oby was at the zenith of the campaign for the domestication of CEDAW and the African Union Protocol on The Rights of Women (Otherwise called “Maputo Protocol”) and the passage of the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill in Nigeria. She was, inter alia, a consultant to the United Nations Children’s Funds (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Funds (UNFPA).” https://www.pressreader.com/nigeria/thisday/20180124/281569471152463
Beyond her professional accolades, she was a mother, who though widowed at a young age and left with seven (7) children, rose above the challenges. She was and still is the ultimate role model: Strong, Passionate, Driven, Brilliant and Successful, yet compassionate, humble and beautiful inside and out. I am blessed and privileged to have had her as my mother.
FWIL:How can people reach out to you? (social media handles)
RO:Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/ralobiohalaw/Instagram – @ralobiohalawTwitter – @RalObiohaLaw