IBA Conference Sydney 2017: Daily Highlights III

NBA President A.B Mahmoud SAN, Paul Usoro SAN and a delegate at the IBA 2017

Day 4 Insights

Gradually, the IBA Annual General Conference is coming to a close but just not yet. Today, we bring you insights from Day 4 Sessions. 


In the conversation about mega law firms and specialized legal services, the question was asked, “Where are African Law Firms?” With some of Law Firms in the UK and the US boasting of 3000 plus lawyers (asides from paralegals, legal secretaries and other support staff), this Session sought to provide answers to how African law firms can participate more in the wave of globalized services. According to one of Nigeria’s brilliant Commercial Lawyers, Mena Ajakpovi of Abraham & Co, the African continent’s pre-existing economic handicap is the fundamental reason why African Law Firms have not been able to compete with the biggest Firms of UK, Europe and the US. He stated that “the more sophisticated the economy, the more sophisticated the level of services available and Africa does not have the economy in place”. In his own view, Koos Prestorius of ENsafrica was of the view that a lot of the wealth generated in Africa leaves Africa. In her own view, another leading Nigerian lawyer, Mfon Usoro of Paul Usoro & Co opined strongly that specialization is the key to expansion for African Law Firms. She reiterated the need for regulators on the Continent to engage local Law Firms which are prepared to take on the big and highly specialized transactions. It was concluded that we (African lawyers and Law Firms) are responsible for improving our own situation. Without any doubt, African and especially Nigerian Law Firms will rise to this challenge.


The unprecedented leak of over 11 million confidential files from Monsack Fonseca (the Panama Papers) left in its wake destruction to many Firms and individuals on a massive scale. That scandal brought to the fore again the question of Client confidentiality. According to Meg Strickler of Atlanta-based Law Firm, Conway & Strickler,  it is no longer a question of if a law firm is going to breached, it is now at the point of when such breach will occur.  The session also focused on the responsibility that Lawyers and Law Firms have to implement additional security measures that restrain or minimize the impact of hacking of confidentially held information.


For a continent endowed richly with so many natural resources, Africa is in a most unusual challenge of being home to the most deprived people. According to Session Chair, Linda Kasonde of Mulenga Mundashi Kasonde in Zambia, the rule of law is part and parcel of economic development. She opined that there is so much more lawyers on the Continent can do to promote accountability and proper management of resources while fighting to eradicate the epidemic of corruption. In his own view, Sternford Moyo of Scarlen & Holdeness in Zimbabwe believed that the roadmap for Africa’s development and wealth lies in the pursuit of correct policies, upholding the rule of law and ensuring good governance. The Session also considered the need for simplification of legal regimes in many African countries in order to boost foreign investor’s confidence. Without tax abuses and illicit financial flaws, the developing world would actually have no need for aid from developed economies.


Partners of Law Firms in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe took the opportunity of the session to share personal experiences of their roles as mentors and mentees. It was stated that the key in modern management lies in investing in individual, tailored and on-the-job learning relationships. During the session, Hanim Hamzah of Singaporean Law Firm ZICO outlined her Firm’s structured mentoring program which enabled the Firm to achieve a mix of 52% female lawyers with strong representation at the senior level. For Ghanaian lawyer Kimathi Kuenyehia, he took advantage of most opportunities to meet and interact with senior figures within the profession whom he admired and he achieved this through the IBA platform.

Another eventful day has come and gone in Sydney, Australia and as your trusted and undisputed Partner, we trust that today’s insights have proven useful to you and your practice.


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