I tell anyone who cares to listen that only lawyers skilled at closing deals, lawyers who possess cutting-edge business savvy will do extremely well in the future African business climate. We must understand and come to the realization that the hunger for solving Africa’s unique challenges is on a scale we’ve never seen before and the evidence shows it’s going to get more intense. Within the next decade, the race will be a fierce one attracting participation from within and outside Africa and it will eventually lead to the rise of new businesses and entrepreneurs.
As a lawyer who wants to succeed and do extremely well in the commercial space, your objective should be to help imagine, create and develop businesses. Lawyers have to strategically position themselves if they want to be a part of making history and as such need to go beyond reciting what is contained in legislation and policy documents, to understanding how the day-day human behavior and future projections will affect the businesses they serve. We must understand that the goal for most businesses is to increase their bottom line (and for some, that is in addition to making impact).
So, if you are advising a client who’s about to raise millions of dollars in funding for the business, you have to look at the factual matrix and put on two caps. The cap of protecting his interest by mitigating risk and the cap that ensures he makes a sound business decision.
The only way lawyers can effectively play this role is by acquiring a true understanding of the business, including how it operates, how it makes money, who its competitors are, what its key relationships are and what its goals for growth are. Clients are more comfortable and even willing to pay you handsomely when they realize that while formulating your legal advise you have a holistic view of the business case and your opinion or thoughts will eventually have a significant impact on their bottom line.
Anytime clients reach out to me, I realized they look to me beyond providing solutions to a legal problem, but how to approach a problem that will affect the company’s overall business strategy. Rather than deciding solely on the merits of the law, the overall strategy of the company and demonstrating an understanding of the business case is considered.
Some lawyers get it twisted and think they are business savvy because they can suggest how to legitimately maneuver the legal system, they fail to understand that what the business people think is how policy and regulation affects economic posture and its impact on their income. To be valuable in this global economy, one must make a paradigm shift from being legal-centric to being business- centric.
As a Corporate & Commercial lawyer or as a Business Lawyer (whichever term you want to call it), one of the most important things to consider is relationship with clients. Lawyers have a very unique role in corporate life and they must bring to the table, a very sound understanding of what is called Business Judgment, so that you are not just giving legal advice, but also saying this is what the market looks like, this is what exists in this market, operations in the country and even provide advice on how to chart the course of the businesses.
As a lawyer to a business person or entity, you must demonstrate an understanding of the business case and also show that you have a conviction, a belief that the business will do well and then help to pursue it to its logical extent. If you look at the leading Nigerian Lawyers or even the top tier law firms, they are run by business savvy lawyers. Most of them, in addition to running the leading law firms of our time, have also being at the forefront of driving the most successful companies across various sectors.
Every Business/Corporate/Commercial lawyer must have such a complete mastery of the subject matter, the business case, strong local knowledge, domain command & control.
Your ability to make striking contributions to the business and help provide transformational solutions is what will set you apart.
Mobolaji is a Partner and Head of Business Advisory Practice at Allen & Brooks, Victoria Island, Lagos. Learn more about Mobolaji, visit: www.allenandbrooks.com
Mobolaji is also the Founder & President of The Riverwood Switch Foundation, a developmental organization focused on education across Africa. To learn more about the work he does with his team, visit: www.riverwoodswitch.org