The story behind the success of the law firm of Solola and Akpana is most inspiring. Ably run by fine legal practitioners and the two founding partners, Tope Solola and Iboroma Akpana, this law firm is to the best of our knowledge (we stand to be corrected) the most outstanding in the oil city of Port Harcourt.
Read the S&A Culture and be inspired:
SOLOLA & AKPANA AT 20: The S&A Culture
(Walking the Walk and Talking the Talk)
As young men engaged in legal practice, our Founding Partners, Tope Solola & Iboroma Akpana, had a vision of starting a world-class law Firm committed to the ideals of professionalism and excellence.
Twenty years ago, they laid the foundation stones for bringing that vision to reality. On June 24, 1997, the Firm of Solola & Akpana (Barristers & Solicitors) was registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission as a business name with its principal address at No.12A, Igbodo Street, Old GRA, Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The Founding Partners founded S&A on the following Guiding Principles:
1. “We care for our Clients and shall be responsive to their needs.
2. We will respond to every enquiry within 24 hours.
3. We will act with integrity at all times in the conduct of our affairs.
4. Our emphasis on continuous learning ensures that we bring our expertise to all we do.
5. We reward excellence and dedication
6. We are committed to contributing to the development of our society and nurturing a culture of public service.”
In the course of the past 2 decades, S&A has grown from a 2-partner and one-office law Firm to a 5-partner and 3-office law Firm.
S&A lawyers are ranked as leaders in their field and have been recognized by Chambers Global: The World’s Leading Lawyers for Business; The Legal 500, Europe Middle East and Africa; Who is Who Legal and IFLR 1000: The Guide to the World’s Leading Financial Law Firms.
At the inaugural edition of the Nigerian Legal Awards organised by Esquire Magazine and Business Day Newspaper in 2010, S&A emerged the Regional Law Firm of the year.
S&A and its lawyers were also recently listed among Firms and Lawyers to watch out for in 2016 in The Lawyer pull-out in This Day Newspaper published on March 8, 2016.
A defining trademark about S&A is its ethos of unwavering commitment to the ideals of professionalism and excellence in legal practice. It is the S&A culture and ethics that stands us out. It inspires curiosity about our Firm and attracts commendation and admiration for what we do and how we do it.
While we must cast our sights on the future, with all its challenges and opportunities, it is vitally important that we continuously reaffirm our commitment to our core values.
As S&A marks what has been a very remarkable two decades as a Firm, we would like to share with members of the Firm (and those looking forward to joining the Firm in the future), some thoughts on the culture and ethics of the Firm.
It is this quality, the personality of S&A, that culture of which we often speak, that is the key differentiation point of our Firm. Paradoxically, because of its very intangible nature, it is a quality that is subject to dilution and so we must, especially for the benefit of the newer members of the Firm, clearly define what kind of behavior we admire, and what kind of behavior we deplore.
1. First, we admire people who work hard. We dislike passengers who do not pull their weight in the boat! People who take personal responsibility for such work as is entrusted to them are the people who make us all look good and define the character of S&A. Here, we keep our monkeys on our backs!!
2. We admire people with first class minds, because you cannot have a great law firm without good minds. When we speak of good minds, it is not necessarily people with high grades – it means curiosity, common sense, imagination, wisdom and an ability to think outside the box.
3. We are a Firm committed to abolishing hierarchies – a flat organization. Now, it is true that as an organization grows, hierarchies do emerge, however subliminally. Fundamentally, we do not believe in hierarchies. When we insist that people in S&A refer to their colleagues on first name basis (and that includes everyone from the security guard to Partners) it is not a measure of our personal preferences or a liberal disposition. At inception, we very consciously adopted that policy because we believe that a symbolic thing such as addressing ourselves on first name basis goes a long way towards breaking down walls and barriers which hierarchies create. It encourages us to always speak up and contribute without feeling intimated by rank or position. That is what ensures that the very expansive talents of our people is brought to the fore and can be used for the benefit of the Firm. This Firm should never be structured like an army, with over-privileged officers and under-privileged subordinates. Older people have no monopoly on ideas. In S&A, we address ourselves on first name basis without exception and we admire those who have the character to speak up and bring their contributions to the fore.
4. We admire people who avoid politics – office politics, that is. In the past, those who have indulged in this practice have been allowed to exit from the Firm. We deplore it because it is behavior that is capable of destroying the collegiality that is so essential to the nature of work which we do. A culture that encourages openness cannot exist alongside the insidiousness of this kind of behavior.
5. We admire the great professionals, who do their work with superlative excellence. These are the people who respect the professional opinions of others and are respectful of their views. We dislike those who are arrogant, conceited and self-indulgent!
6. We admire people who build up and develop those less experienced than them; because that is the only way we can build firm-wide expertise. It is these people who constantly search for talent that can be attracted to the Firm to renew and further challenge us. We dislike people who are so insecure that they cannot empower those coming after them to succeed and surpass them. Our core belief is that the more centers of leadership and excellence you have in a firm, the stronger it will become.
7. We admire people who practice delegation. The more you delegate, the more responsibility will be loaded unto you. Those who delegate and help others continue to grow in the profession and as individuals make a priceless contribution to the future of the Firm because these new leaders will in turn enrich us all. We detest those who seek to be “lone stars” and as a Firm, we reward those who whilst being high performing, help others to consummate their potentials.
8. We admire people who have personal integrity! That is what helps to define S&A as an organization high on values. In this matter, there are no grey areas, only bright red lines that define good and bad conduct. It’s doing the right thing even when no one is watching! We detest people who seek to bend the rules and do not have a strong moral compass. This has become a key part of our culture because those who in the past have fallen short of these standards have been forced to leave the Firm. It is no wonder therefore that these practices which are so prevalent amongst our competitors and the larger society find no place amongst us. Members of the Firm would do well to constantly make sure that their conduct is able to pass scrutiny at all times.
9. We admire people, who treat others with respect, especially our colleagues whom we regularly appear against in matters and transactions. We value the character type that while being respectful of others, is committed to acting in the best interests of our clients. We like kindly people with good manners who treat others around them as human beings! We abhor quarrelsome people. We abhor buck passers and people who don’t tell the truth!
10. We admire well-organized people who keep their offices ship-shape and deliver their work on time. We abhor people who are untidy, slovenly and tactless.
11. We admire people who bring passion to their work and maintain their intensity levels! We celebrate these individuals for their energy and selflessness. They are the people who are not governed by the official closing hours, rather their hours are determined by the work they have on hand. They are the ones who will sacrifice a weekend, leave their loved ones and commit their time to help the Firm grow. In saying this, we do not suggest that people cannot get their work done within the official hours efficiently; rather, we refer to those who go over and above the call of duty!! They have shaped the personality of S&A with which clients identify. We detest people that have to be monitored, like kindergarten children to ensure they do not skive!! The monitoring costs of such professionals create a deficit for the Firm and put undue pressure on others.
12. Finally, on the question of leadership, our commitment is to build leaders. We admire those leaders in the Firm that continuously develop other leaders. They have often provided leadership both at the Firm and their activities in the community and we are proud of them. These are individuals who in their churches, social clubs and our local bar take up leadership positions and do us all proud by their uncommon dedication. Our personality must be defined by a willingness to serve, without fuss, seriously, but never taking ourselves too seriously and always remembering that the clients, whom we serve, are at the center of our world. The value of having a surfeit of such leaders in the Firm is there for all to see.
On this occasion of our 20th anniversary, we say thank you to:
1. Our Clients; your patronage and support over the years have contributed in no small measure to the success we have achieved and the continuing growth of our Firm;
2. Our Staff (both legal and support); your hard work, dedication, loyalty and commitment support the growth trajectory of S&A.
3. Our Founding Partners; your phenomenal vision which you worked hard and continue to work tirelessly to bring to fruition and to sustain is the bedrock upon which S&A stands today and the spring board from which it will launch to greater heights in the coming years.
Congratulations to the S & A from all of us @ DNL Legal & Style.
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