Last week, the law firm of Perchstone & Graeys (P&G) admitted two members of the firm into its partnership, while various other promotions took place within the firm. In an exclusive chat with the partners of the firm, BusinessDay Law Editor, THEODORA KIO-LAWSON, learns about the firms Practice Management, Organisational Structure, Market Trends in 2018, Policy & Regulation, Business Development, Challenges in the industry and several other issues, which we share with you in this edition. EXCERPTS…
Law Firm growth and promotions at perchstone and graeys
OSARO EGHOBAMIEN, SAN – MANAGING PARTNER
Promotions and elevation must take place in any institution and that includes, law firms if progress is to be made.
Climbing the ladder to the top at Perchstone & Graeys requires integrity, character and hard work. There’s a structure in place and working closely with our team members, partners ensure that you have what it takes to be groomed and prepared for leadership roles. This is very important to us and to the development of the firm.
Selection Process At Perchstone & Graeys
TOLULOPE ADEREMI – PARTNER
For us, team building, teamwork and integrity come first. Then, we consider, practice area. Our expectation of every partner in the firm is the ability to move P&G from where it is to where it wants to be. We believe our partners (and that includes the Head of Chamber) are ambassadors of the firm, so wherever you find yourself as a member of P&G, you must represent who we are. We stand for professionalism, integrity, competence and character. So all of this, we must be able to see that in one person.
The Firm’s Organisational Structure and Management Approach
IFEDAYO IROCHE – HEAD OF CHAMBER
We have a Board. We have a Head of Administration who handles administrative duties and all administrative staff, two Heads of chambers, an Accountant, Associates and a Consultant who works with management to execute and achieve the objectives of the firm. The Partners work with the Head of Administration and the consultant, to bring in resources whilst helping everyone else work at their full potential to achieve the goals and objectives of the firm. At Perchstone & Graeys, we believe that having partners take responsibility for certain portfolios further deepens the practice.
TOLULOPE ADEREMI – PARTNER
We have plans to further engage the market. We haven’t had an elevation in the last few years. We had internal issues and what I mean by that is we had to organise ourselves better, develop talent and position rightly in order to engage the market.
Right now we run more or less a federation of units and we are looking to run our Abuja branch independently, which is why we have the role of Head of Abuja office.
On The Role of Head Of Chambers & The Function Of The Abuja Head Of Chambers
OSARO EHGOBAMIEN, SAN
The Head Of Chambers will more or less co-ordinate every member of staff in Lagos, Benin and Abuja, While Abuja to a large extent will have some sort of independence in it operations. We are looking at running the Abuja office as a franchise but since we are not there yet, the head of Abuja Chambers will be working closely with the General Head of chambers.
On Challenges Facing The Legal Industry In Nigeria,
OSARO EGHOBAMIEN, SAN
“The main challenge is the absence of soft and hard infrastructure to enable the delivery of legal services.
The world is moving at such a fast pace as we rightly said, training systems globally are beginning to recognize how fast the world is moving because we are in a global age.
In Nigeria there is a problem in recognising the need for Continuous Legal Education (CLE), which is why we still fall short in meeting the needs of clients. In P&G we put ourselves in a position where we can deliver services to our clients and those services are equivalent to services they are accustomed to receiving anywhere in the world. That means that in the absence of infrastructure, we would really need to work twice as hard and focused as our foreign counterparts to be able to get ahead.
Also, in the absence of soft and hard infrastructure, integrity continues to be a major issue in the practice of law. I don’t think a lot of us who studied law understand the oath we took on the day we were called to the Bar to practice law.
What Sets The Firm Apart From Its Competitors In The Legal Market?
OSARO EGHOBAMIEN, SAN
Integrity is one of our key values. That’s the quality clients locally and overseas continue to point out. The quality of our work and character has also been a point of reference wherever we go. Time is also of the essence. We do the client’s job as quickly as they expect it to be and we also provide added value at all times by getting fully involved in our client’s business. We deliver services home and abroad, and we go beyond to give extra support to all clients.
Accomplishment In The Last Few Years
OSARO EGHOBAMIEN, SAN
I think in different sector we have stood out. There’s an award to the firm by the president for the work we did with presidential enablement and award council in seeing to the passage of secured transactions and movable assets and collateral registry act 2017, For us that was a big thing.
We are also making good progress with our technology department and this year we are going to hold a big seminar. We are also taking employment to a different level where we have to interact with CEOs looking at their private employment policies. The firm is constantly innovating, following the market.
Biggest Trends In Legal Practice In 2018
OSARO EGHOBAMIEN, SAN
Technology, Project Finance, Infrastructure Finance, are the biggest areas for lawyers in 2018.
We say employment law because the challenges we are facing today in employment policies has made it a huge attraction for many and what we make of it will depend on how we approach it.
Also, any lawyer in infrastructure finance will have a lot of work not just in 2018 but also in years to come.
Legal Practice In Nigeria In The Next Ten Years
MANAGING PARTNER, OSARO EGHOBAMIEN, SAN
In the curriculum and in the code of practice you will find more and more people going into law not understanding what it takes to be a true lawyer. So in years, I see more people who would call themselves lawyers; yet not knowing what it takes to make a success of their practice or what it takes to achieve a delivered service.
I also fear that more people will go into law, only to find out that they had taken the wrong profession.
I fear that there will be fewer experts and thus, there will be more foreign law firms working in Nigeria because clients (particularly those with global businesses) will not be able to find the level of expertise they are accustomed to, in other parts of the world. This would be our lot, if we don’t change things now.
The approach, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) is taking, which is that of protectionism is not the right approach. The right approach is to deepen knowledge and expertise to the point where Nigerian law firms will be enabled and confident to take their practice abroad.
There are two things to benefit from this: you expand your client base and you broaden your knowledge. This is how we grow. That’s what I think the NBA should focus on instead of restricting international law firms – ensure there are many law firms who can benchmark international standards. This is what we need, to keep our law firm growing and to attract international clients.
Nigerian lawyers are as smart as the best lawyers in the world but we are at the level where many lawyers still struggle with getting the right resources and infrastructure to improve their skills and grow their practice in line with global standards. Rather than focus on dictating to clients what lawyers to use or not to use, we should stay focused on the real issues. They will find several ways to circumvent these rules. On the other hand, if you encourage lawyers to learn and hone their skills, they will be quipped to compete favourably with their foreign counterparts.
On Partnerships And Law Firm Growth
OSARO EGHOBAMIEN, SAN
If we don’t have the regulator forcing us to merge and build bigger firms that can handle the type of work coming in to our jurisdiction, we will keep going around this circle and in five (5) years, we will just have a number of small mushroom firms who are not in a position to deliver excellent service.
When you look at our GDP against the size and level of our firms, it is nothing compared to South Africa. We have a GDP that is almost beyond and above South Africa, yet you have firms in south Africa that are far more structured, have more lawyers and partners than you can ever imagine in Nigeria – even Kenya is going this way. So the Nigerian legal market must begin to seek more focused ways and measures for the development of our industry.
Policy and regulation
OSARO EGHOBAMIEN, SAN
The steps taken by regulators to prepare our law firms for the future is still questionable.
When the bank mergers started, only a handful of law firms were ready and equipped for the specialist work required for these Mergers and Acquisitions (M&As). Till date, several documentations found are still very weak. We are still handling transactions that we are not sufficiently trained to handle and the regulator isn’t taking adequate steps to deal with this.
To practice in a given area you must demonstrate skill in that area, even if its self-development. If we don’t do something drastic about this development, we will end up with fewer lawyers who are specialists in their practice areas and who can provide the specialised services required in a dynamic economy.
The New Partners Speak On Making Partnership
OBI UGOCHUKWU – NEWLY ELEVATED PARTNER
When I joined the firm, my primary focus was not on making partnership but more on becoming a better lawyer. However, having joined the firm, it was obvious that the prospect of becoming a partner wasn’t far-fetched and in fact, seemed possible.
I came to the understanding that all it would entail was hardwork, competence, developing my skills in the practice area I had chosen and remaining consistent with all of these. Also the managing partner had consistently hammered on these points right from my entry.
Hence, when an opportunity came in our technology practice, I grabbed the opportunity and went to India for capacity building. From then on, I have been able to achieve excellence and make headway in this practice area. So while I didn’t have it in mind initially, settling into the firm made me realise that the opportunity was available and indeed could be my reality, as it has turned out to be.
ELISABET EKPENYONG – NEWLY ELEVATED PARTNER
I’d be honest. I came in with the purpose of growing and climbing that high. I understood I needed to work really and I was not afraid to. Discipline and personal development was foremost on my mind. For these reasons, I focused on constantly improving myself and positioned myself to achieve high standards at all times. So, yes, from the very beginning, I considered how far I wanted to go.
For The Benefits of Younger Lawyers, The Duo Also Spoke Of How Much Work And Effort They Put In, To Make Partnership
Hard work pays and shouldn’t necessarily be measured. We provide our clients with excellent services and thus, we must put in the hours to achieve such excellence. There are times when clients demand our attention all day and you would have to work all-night and sometimes all week to get these assignments and tasks done. You need discipline to do all of these and slacking on your commitments is not even an option because all they are looking to you for is excellent service delivery.
On New Role As Partner and Value Add
I think for those of us who have been made partners, our primary role would be to grow the bottom line of the firm.
Our elevations and promotions came with salary increase, and as you know, to whom much is given, much is expected, so we must work extra hard to increase the clientele growth of the firm and the bottom-line of the firm. Sustainability is the only way we can be able to sustain
On Marketing Of Law Firms
This is a major challenge in most law firms because traditionally lawyers are not trained to market. The category of people you describe as mid-level lawyers whose responsibility it is to just go and bring in briefs also need to pay attention to the work itself. What we have done, is put structures in place to encourage these mid-level/ junior level lawyers to do their work excellently and at the same time improve on their business development skills.
Besides these incentive structures, we also ensure they work with very senior lawyers to help them through this process. Hence, for every brief you bring into the firm there’s a percentage that ranges between 10% – 20% of the cost of the Brief.
Perchstone & Graeys is a leading commercial law Firm that delivers exceptional legal services in the diverse areas of arbitration, oil and gas, banking and finance, capital market, tax, litigation, intellectual property, real estate, corporate commercial and telecommunications.
The Firm’s strong reputation is founded on its unique ability to provide innovative solutions to complex legal issues in a manner tailored to the client’s individual needs.
Founded in 1997 by the duo of Remi Okunlola and Osaro Eghobamien , SAN , Perchstone & Graeys from the onset had, set for itself, the mission of creating a world class law firm driven by quality, professionalism and integrity. In time, it has grown to one of Nigeria’s pre-eminent law firms. In Dispute Resolution, Perchstone & Graeys is renowned for its depth of knowledge, innovation and a grasp of how its clients’ interests converge with the Law.