Culled from ThisDay Live
Attracting foreign direct investment to Nigeria has been a major challenge for successive administrations in the past. This is partly due to the perception that Nigeria’s legal system is slow and government policies inconsistent and unreliable. Mrs. Priscilla Ogwemoh in an interview with May Agbamuche-Mbu, Jude Igbanoi and Tobi Soniyi spoke on why Alternative Dispute Resolution is the preferred option for foreign investors. As the Managing Partner in Olisa Agbakoba Legal she also spoke on the dynamics of running a modern cutting edge law firm.
As Managing Partner in one of Nigeria’s leading law firms, you have been a key part of its transformation. What are the dynamics of running such a large organisation?
I see law as a business. This has been the driving force. So, it is generally about running a successful business enterprise which happens to be a law firm and what we do is add value to our clients in a way that brings solutions to their legal needs in a most efficient, effective and profitable way. I joined this law firm straight out of youth service in 1992 as an Associate Counsel. Law practice generally has evolved over this period. From when few law firms used had computers to the age of technology where most firms can now use different office management software and techniques to effectively run a law office. The other part is harnessing keep in mind that you have to worry about your resources, particularly human resources and how to harness these resources. And as you know, we lawyers are rather complex people but you have to effectively use all of your resources in the most effective manner. In addition to that, one has to learn to create the right balance and atmosphere in order for everyone in the firm to have a sense of ownership. That way, the right energy is released and you tend to have the best that everyone has to offer to ensure a smooth operation in the firm. I am also very conscious of the need to run the firm in an efficient, client-focused and effective way using business strategies to meet set goals. I am quite passionate about what I do and it gives a good feeling knowing that Lawyers I work with also bring on the same passion to their work. So two key elements to keep in mind are: 1) delivering cutting edge service to clients and 2) ensuring profitability.
Many accept as fact that an inherent bias exists in legal jurisprudence that subtly understates the female position in favour of a male-oriented perspective. This is the basic argument that some provisions and/or laws naturally disadvantage women in the legal system. As a long standing representative of the legal profession in Nigeria and given your career experience do you agree with the idea?
I disagree with that notion. First I am not aware of any law or provisions that places a woman at any great disadvantage, at least as far as the legal profession is concerned. If you talk about gender imbalance in terms of occupying political offices or even appointive offices, ok. We are all given equal opportunities in our aspiration to become lawyers like our male counterparts and throughout my period of study, I never felt any particular disadvantage. My experience in practice, so far, is that we even tend to get more empathy and assistance both from the bench and colleagues generally. Areas where there appears to be gender imbalance may be in the appointment to the Bench and probably occupying more relevant positions within the legal profession. For instance, I would like to see more female lawyers being elevated to the rank of Senior Advocate, more female Judges being appointed at all levels of the judiciary, a female Attorney – General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, etc. But beyond that, I am proud to say that female lawyers continue to give good account of themselves at different levels of endeavours both in private and public sectors.
Financial scandals around the world and the collapse of major financial institutions drew the attention of the global business community to the importance of corporate governance. And one of the major roles of the company secretary is to ensure compliance with the rules of corporate governance. How can the company secretary carry-out this role effectively?
The issue of corporate governance and compliance has since gone beyond the role of the Company Secretary. Corporate organisations have, in the last five years, been paying serious premium to their regulatory and compliance issues because they are big issues. I did not also realise the impact of regulatory and compliance issues until a few years ago when a good friend of mine, Mrs. Solape Adio who has practised in America as a compliance and regulatory expert impressed on me that corporates in America pay serious attention to such issues as a result of fines they pay for infractions and non – compliance. That is where breach of corporate governance codes are viewed seriously. So, it is good to know that back in Nigeria, most corporate organisations now have Compliance Officers at senior levels whose primary task is to ensure that companies adhere strictly with codes of corporate governance such that there are no infractions that would lead to serious penalties and other punitive measures...View Details Here