In this post, I will show you how to start a Law Firm in Nigeria. Here, you will see the requirements to open a law firm, the steps required, possible challenges and tips to succeed.
Establishing a law firm in Nigeria is a good step to take. Many Lawyers in Nigeria would prefer not to have any other boss but themselves and honestly, I do not blame them for not wanting to be servants.
Being a Nigerian and living in the country is very challenging with the rapacious government officials whose rapaciousness over the years has hindered the growth of the economy among other evils.
Due to the poor economy, it gave rise to the rate of unemployment and so, if one managed to secure a job in the midst of the daily toil and hurdles, he or she was considered lucky.
A lot of employers know the struggle involved in securing a job as a fresh graduate with no experience, especially a good job.
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When they eventually hire you, the next thing on their agenda is to make you feel like they did you a favour— which is not entirely a lie if you want to be honest with yourself.
You have to resume work before everyone, do a lot of research for the “big boys” in the firm to have a riveting moment in court, taking the opposing counsels down with your own brilliant input to the case.
As if that is not enough, you are compelled to carry your boss’s heavy books, wig and gown, walking briskly behind him or her under the scorching sun while your boss has nothing but a fancy leather journal and a ball pen in his hands, looking dapper in his suit than James Bond.
Sadly, after all the energy and efforts expended on cases brought to the firm, your emolument covers only transport fare.
If you are lucky, it covers both transport and feeding allowance. If you are very lucky, you just might have a frugal amount of money to send your parents in the village after deducting your share.
Nobody likes to be overused and underpaid, some don’t just buy the idea of answering to another human being while others want to start an empire in the legal realm.
Whichever reason it is, starting a Law firm at the right time may not be a bad idea. Before I tell you how to go about it, you might want to know what a Law firm is.
A Law Firm
As a little girl, I used to say, when I become a Lawyer, I will have my court. I was disappointed when I was told that Lawyers couldn’t own Courts the way Doctors could own Hospitals. “Lawyers can only have a Law Firm.” They said.
A Law Firm is a company where a Legal Practitioner engages in any legal activities of his or her choice. That you want to become a Lawyer does not give you the right to start a Law Firm in your fourth year in the University. To start a Law Firm, you must have been called into the Nigerian Bar.
How to start a Law Firm in Nigeria
Starting your own law firm checklist; see the step-by-step guide on how to open a law firm in Nigeria and succeed in it.
Step 1: Choose your areas of specialization
You must have thought of and chosen the aspects of law you want to practice. Thankfully, it is broad and there is room for all.
The essence of this is to make you a professional in a particular field such that when a situation arises, you are the first Lawyer they want to see. You don’t want to a “Jack-of-all-trades” in handling people’s matters.
Step 2: Have realistic objectives and goals
After choosing your area of practice, you want to have objectives and goals. This is to ensure that you know why you are starting a Firm and what you hope to achieve. It serves as a guide in decision making and prevents you from acting beyond your scope.
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Step 3: Get a conducive environment for your firm
Once you have a realistic objective, then setting up a law office is the next action plan to take. Under the Rules of Professional Conduct, Lawyers are prohibited from advertising their firm, area of practise and so on.
Having known that you might not get clients that easily, you might want to get a conducive area for your office. A location free of noise and air pollution, good routes getting there and other things that won’t discourage potential clients from coming your way.
In practice, you find that some Lawyers use a portion of a photocopying centre or cyber café as offices. This is a shabby and unprofessional practice even though there are no Laws against this.
You don’t want to be involved in this kind of practice if you ever want to get good clients and be respected in your profession.
Step 4: Register your Firm
In this section, I will show you how to register a law firm. Registration of law firms in Nigeria is very important. This is pivotal under the provisions of Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2004 which makes the registration of every company mandatory.
However, if you are using your name as your company’s name then the requirement of registering companies becomes inapplicable to you.
For example, Ozioma Uche LLp or Ozioma Uche Legal Practitioner. On the other hand, the moment you partner with another to start a firm, registration becomes compulsory. The company name now being Ozioma Uche and co, you are mandated to register your company.
Step 5: Furnish your Firm
Furniture, good internet services, Law reports, textbooks, journals, printer, photocopying machine etc. are necessary requirements for a good Law Firm.
You can have a library if the office is spacious or a shelf of books in a corner if the office is not spacious. Other equipment such as stationary, staplers and pin, letter headed papers and envelops, file jackets, business cards etc. are also important.
Step 6: Notify the Nigerian Bar Association
The Nigerian Bar Association must be notified within 30 days after the establishment of the Law Firm. In that notice, the name(s) of the Lawyer(s), date of call to bar and the address of the Firm must be stated there.
Where there is a change of name or address for example, it must be communicated as well to the Nigerian Bar Association.
It is pertinent to mention here that there are no codified rules on how to set up a law firm in Nigeria. The only requirement for this is for one to have been called into the Nigerian Bar and other things as stated above, follow.
Running a Law Firm is not a walk over especially for a fresh graduate from the Law School. It is usually much easier for those who have worked with a senior colleague at one point, gotten some briefs personally and learnt the strings of real practice. This is not to discourage anyone but to prepare you ahead of what is to come.
Challenges Of Having A Law Firm In Nigeria
1. Getting Briefs
This task is herculean being a Lawyer no one knows, compared to those who have been in practice from time immemorial.
The only people who know you are a Lawyer are the ones who sponsored your education, your colleagues and friends.
It is very unlikely that they will be needing your services that early and as such, the difficulty in getting a brief makes one resort to unprofessional practice.
By unprofessional practice, I mean hanging around the court premises and running after patrol cars to get a “client”.
The “clients” here are those who have been arrested for one offence or the other except murder and are in dire need of a counsel to help them apply for bail.
The Lawyers negotiate with these “clients” and make at least #5,000. There is no law prohibiting this practice but it is not professional.
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2. Financial challenges
The difficulty in getting a brief will definitely have a toll on your finances. It becomes arduous maintaining office utilities, paying staff and handling your own bills.
This is not the kind of Lawyer you want to be. You want to be seen in your pristine white shirt and black pants or skirt, looking healthy, vibrant and confident.
3. Poor billing skills
This occurs most times to Lawyers who have not undergone pupillage with a Law Firm prior to starting theirs. They either undercharge or overcharge, cheating themselves or driving clients away with their poor billing skills.
Benefits Of Having A Law Firm
A Lawyer is allowed to grow up fast and make decisions solely, irrespective of the consequences. You have the final say, your judgement not being subject to the approval of anyone. All Legal fees earned is not shared with anyone but fully owned by you.
2. Flexibility of working hours
Since it is your Firm, you make the rules. The opening and closing hours of the Firm depends on what you say it is. You can decide to work from home any day without any consequence attached to that.
3. Unrestricted access to client
You have the advantage of taking or rejecting certain cases and when you accept them, there is full access to client.
Necessary calls and meetings can be scheduled at any time with the client without the need of obtaining permission from higher authorities.
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4. Building a structure
Here, one has the opportunity of determining the physical setting of the Firm, the modus operandi and even right to change it at any point in time.
5. Full commitment
Being your Firm, you want to run it effectively and efficiently in order to have a good Law practice. That you are your own boss makes this possible.
In addition, it increases your knowledge in that area of specialization you have chosen to venture into and makes you a part of any brief brought into the Firm.
Finally, reading is something that never ends for you as a Legal Practitioner. It’s a continuous process to make you better and more equipped in handling certain matters.
Your observance, listening and writing skills must always be intact so as to represent your client tremendously. It takes more than what is being taught in class for a good and fulfilling practice.
The Nigerian Legal System is warped, there are certain knowledge one must acquire to pull through. You don’t have to get your hands dirty to make a good living, you need wisdom.Click here to see the latest Jobs opportunities in Nigeria.
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