Part (I) here
Organizational Structure of Law Firms
In order to have a good comprehension of the subject, it is imperative to consider the concept of law office management vis-à-vis the organizational structures available to legal practitioners willing to set up a practice in Nigeria, with emphasis on the types of Partnership models available. Thereafter, the second part of this paper will focus on the current economic state of Legal Practice in Nigeria.
Law Office Management is the study of the Organizational structure and methods employed in the setting up, composition, management and administration of a Law Firm vis-à-vis the relationship between its members of staff on the one hand and their relationship with members of the public with who they are in contact. It also concerns the development of human and other resources in a law firm. Law Firms may be classified into small firms, medium firms, and large firms. In this regard classification is based on certain criteria which amongst others include the location of the firm, its client base, facilities available in the firm, the status of lawyers in the firm, and the number of lawyers in the firm.
The various forms of organizational structure available to legal practitioners willing to set up a practice includes the following:
Sole Practitioner-ship: This is a unit of Practice involving a Practitioner practicing alone, but employing support staff to assist him. He provides the capital for the setting up and management of the firm, and does the legal work alone since there is no other practitioner to whom work can be delegated. This is the smallest unit of organization and the commonest in Nigeria.
Sole Proprietorship: This is a unit of Practice involving a Legal Practitioner who establishes a Law Firm, works there and employs other legal practitioners to work in the firm. The relationship between the Practitioner-Owner and the employed practitioners is that of an employer and employees, and their relationship is governed by a contract of employment with terms and conditions.
Associate-ship: This is a unit of Practice whereby two or more Practitioners come together to contribute the capital required for the setting up and the provision of facilities for the Law Firm. All the Practitioners occupy the same premises and share office facilities, they equally contribute to wages and salaries of supporting staff but each remain a sole proprietor because each owns independent practice and separate clients within the associate-ship.
Olagoke Odubunmi LL.M, BL. Legal Practitioner and Tax Research Officer at Maples & Temples, Lagos.
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