Musings on Partnerships: An existential call to Legal Practitioners
Musings on Partnerships: An existential call to Legal Practitioners

By Auta Nyada.

Every Legal practitioner living and practicing within Nigeria knows what time of the day it is, as far as Nigeria’s economy is concerned. The scary shrink in scarce resources has brought with it competing and conflicting interests of clientele, and poaching clients off of fellow colleagues appears to have gained traction at an alarming scale. It appears many are being called to the Nigerian Bar, but very few are chosen for survival, and both the faint hearted and the mighty all soldier on.

While world powers sit in council over what they term, “a worrisome population surge” in Nigeria, the workspace amongst Lawyer colleagues further shrinks. What irony! To my humble mind, a population surge should come with more briefs for the legal kingdom. Alas the reverse keenly remains the case. While the dwindling of resources scorches amidst ever rising population growth, the economic future remains bleak for some lawyers.

The myriad of challenges which range from population surge, shrink in scarce resources, and economic meltdown, no doubt possess an existential threat to the legal profession. So on the one hand is a crop of Lawyers who are seemingly only interested in Litigation but do not have sufficient resources to rent an office space, equip and furnish the office, while on the other hand is another crop of lawyers that relish corporate law practice but do not similarly have the wherewithal to rent and furnish an office space. It is without doubt that these two classes of lawyers are faced with a common threat and the only solution is to join forces to overcome this existential threat. To my mind, the solution is to create a PARTNERSHIP in order to survive, rather than stand alone and probably slide into oblivion.

Fellow compatriots, I have mused keenly over creating partnerships for some time now and on the front burner of my musings have been what I consider to be the brazing advantages, and disadvantages of partnerships particularly considering the current economic difficulties, and the social quagmire confronting our dear Nation. In Legal parlance, partnership is a form of setting up a law practice, where two or more legal practitioners share ownership of a law firm, as well as the responsibility for managing the law firm, and the income or losses the law firm generates.

Having defined partnership in its broad sense, I will briefly share my thoughts on partnership with you, starting with the disadvantages. It is often said that being partners in a law firm is like being married. I’d say partnership is in a league of its own.

Here’s how a law firm partnership is different from a marriage:

Sex. In a marriage, you’re getting laid. Not so much in your law firm partnership. Well, sometimes you get sexed-over by trusted colleagues and that’s the problem since such a betrayal can deal a fatal blow on one’s confidence for creating future partnerships. Kids. In a marriage, the couple often end up with kids, and sometimes kids cause people to try hard to make a marriage work. There is a reason to stick it out when times are tough, but this is not always the case with a law firm partnership. Community. Marriage begets family, community, and other relationships which most often than not, gives rise to staying and sticking together. With law firm partnerships, there’s no such pressure. In fact, other lawyers tend to jump on the bandwagon when you complain about your partner. Love. Last, but not least, marriages (hopefully) involve love. That’s a powerful bonding force. You might really like your law partner. But odds are that you aren’t in love. No sex, no kids, no community pressure, and no love means that many law firm partnerships dissolve, and most often, this happens quickly. It is painful, expensive, and sometimes, embarrassing.

In spite of these odds against partnerships, recent global occurrences, economic downturn, and the fact that even sole proprietors, every now and then, join forces in attending to some class of briefs, leaves me without a doubt that forming partnerships is perhaps the healthiest way to bring about a sustainable growth in our profession. In addition, we are more likely, through partnerships, to build firms that will outlive us all.

Caveat emptor: This article does not seek to discuss partnerships in detail, be that as it may, I will make a copious attempt to outline the benefits of partnering up, and hope that someone finds these tips helpful and useful.

Bridging the Gap in Expertise and Knowledge Partnering with someone can give you access to a wider range of expertise for different parts of your legal practice. A good partner may also bring knowledge and experience you may be lacking, or complementary skills to help you grow the business.

For example, you may be great at drafting briefs, agreements, and general solicitors work, but not so good at advocacy. That is where a partner with skill and acumen can step in and fill those gaps. This may be one of your first considerations when you examine the advantages and disadvantages of a partnership.

Additional Funding/ Cost Savings A prospective partner can bring an infusion of cash into running the law firm. This may help your law firm attract the right kind of clients, and raise more capital to your business, which will in turn upsurge the overall take home pay.

Having a partner can allow you to share the financial burden for expenses and capital expenditures needed to run the law firm. This could result in more substantial savings than by doing it alone.

Enhanced Business Opportunities One of the advantages of having a partner is sharing the workload. Having a partner may not only make you more productive, but it may afford you the ease and flexibility to pursue more business opportunities. The person may also have more strategic connections than you do, and this might even eliminate the downside of opportunity costs.

Opportunity costs are potential advantages or business opportunities that you may be forced to let go while you pursue other avenues. After all, as a one-person band, you have to decide where you choose to focus your time and talents. A partner who shares in the workload may free up time to explore more opportunities that come your way.

Better Work/Life Balance By sharing the workload, a partner may also lighten the load. It may allow you to take time off when needed, knowing that there’s a trusted ally to hold fort. This can have a positive impact on your personal life. Truth be told, the daily hustle and bustle of carrying on business in Nigeria can be mentally/psychologically draining, and as such we all can use the extra time to catch some rest, at least for the sake of our mental health.

Moral Support Everyone needs to be able to bounce off ideas or debrief on important issues, and we may need moral support when we encounter setbacks or have to cope with work and everyday frustrations.

At other times, it is simply the need to celebrate after having achieved a goal, or even the need to vent from time to time. Avenues for doing this may not be so readily available to a solo-preneur. Running a law firm on your own can be lonely, demanding, and tiring, but a trusted partner can be a valued business companion.

New Perspective It is easy to have blind spots about the way we conduct our legal business, but a partnership can bring in a set of new eyes that can help us spot what we may have missed. It may help us adopt a new viewpoint or gain a different outlook about what we do, and how we deal with daily demands.

Caveat emptor: Finding the right partner is essential to a successful legal partnership. With the right partnership, two lawyers can help each other skyrocket to professional success. With the wrong partner, careers can be ruined, clients can be lost, and lawyers can face serious professional consequences. So, if you are thinking of partnering up, it pays to think long and hard, and do your due diligence before making a choice.

A partner can inspire us and even move us from apathy, or the status quo, to the exhilaration of exploring new possibilities. We cannot attach a price on everything and inspiration is one of these intangibles that may be priceless.

It is my hope that this article serves as a quick reference point to all those who desire to venture into partnership. Stay blessed

Written By Auta Nyada

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