By Innocent Anaba
Senior Partner, Templars, a law firm with head office in Lagos, Mr Olumide Akpata, has called on lawyers in the country to acquire the right skills and collaborate with foreign firms to be able to take advantage of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA, which Nigeria ratified last year.
He warned that if Nigerian lawyers are unable to provide service in highly technical areas, foreign lawyers and law firms would take over such services.
Speaking in Lagos, yesterday, at the Africa Trace Roadshow, put together by Templars and BakerMcKenzie, a law firm with branches in over 54 country, Akpata, immediate past Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA Section on Business Law, noted that since foreign law firms cannot practice in Nigeria at the moment unless they are registered in Nigeria, it was incumbent on Nigerian lawyers to acquire the right skills, so that they can handle cases, which foreign companies operating in the country would want them to handle.
He said, “If we can’t and do not have the expertise to provide highly specialized services for foreign companies in Nigeria, foreign law firms will take over such jobs, hence the need for Nigerian lawyers and law firms to acquire the right skills to provide such services.”
On what his firm stand to gain by collaborating with BakerMcKenzie, he said, “We have always appreciated the collaborations of this nature, no man is an island. Secondly, there is no need to reinvest the wheel.
The firm we are holding the event together, BakerMcKenzie, has branches in 54 countries. There is hardly any transaction we are contemplating in Nigeria today that this law firm has no done over and over.
“So what we stand to gain is the benefit of their experience. From the privatization of 1999, our approach was to collaborate with those that have done it before, and that way, we were able to provide services to the Government of Nigeria, taking the benefits of the experience these other law firms have garnered from other jurisdictions.
“You may also ask, what do they stand to gain since they cannot practice in Nigeria? But you know that there are firms in this country, which retain Nigerian lawyers and also foreign lawyers. There are advice they can give even within Nigeria, so BakerMcKenzie is ready to work on any transaction for a while range of clients from any of their offices across the country.
“Let me give you an example, we work for the Liquefied Natural Gas Company and the company ships their LNG products out of Nigeria. As a matter of fact, all their customers are outside Nigeria, as they produce LNG here and sale abroad, so there is the need for Nigerian LNG to retain lawyers and other countries country they do business with.
“So we are glad that BakerMcKenzie is collaborating with us because we have clients who are also outside our jurisdiction and with BakerMcKenzie, its mutually beneficial to us. We come to the table with local knowledge and they bring international experience and we speak to potential clients, we will service the clients here in Nigeria, they also would make themselves available when it goes international. So it’s a good relationship.”