Chambers Global 2021 rankings: Nigeria's best law firms and lawyers
The rankings spotlight law firms and lawyers that weathered the challenges last year to remain at the top.
Governments around the globe implemented unprecedented lockdown measures in 2020 to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus disease. These measures had major repercussions on virtually every aspect of the global economy, including legal services. In Nigeria, courts and law firms were closed during the weeks-long lockdowns, which were followed by curfews. But like many organisations that had to adjust to the pandemic's effect, Nigerian law firms responded to the challenges to meet client demand across practice areas and sectors.
Law firms and lawyers that demonstrated considerable depth of knowledge and were most successful in helping clients navigate the fallout from the COVID-19 situation last year have been featured in the Chambers Global (CG) 2021 report, which ranks Nigeria's top law firms and lawyers. The latest rankings were released on February 18 by Chambers and Partners (chambers.com), the world's leading provider of legal research and analysis.
The Chambers’ Global Guide is a widely reputed directory of the best law firms and top-tier lawyers worldwide. The latest guide ranks a total of 2,690 law firms in over 200 jurisdictions across the world. It comprises regional and country rankings, providing reliable recommendations to governments, businesses and individuals looking to procure competent legal services in the various markets.
With many disputes arising in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to restructure transactions due to acute disruptions brought on by the crisis, the demand outlook for trusted professional advice is anything but dwindled. Accordingly, the CG 2021 is recommended as the foremost legal guide for making informed decisions regarding where to find quality legal services.
The CG rankings of Nigeria's leading law firms and lawyers are highly anticipated every year as interest in the research by the London-based company continues to grow. Since Financial Nigeria began exclusively reporting the Chambers rankings for Nigeria in 2016, the rankings have expanded in scope and recognition within and outside the legal industry.
In 2020, two law firms entered the rankings, increasing the total number from 32 in the previous year to 34. This year, the total number of ranked firms remains the same as last year. However, a new entrant, TNP – The New Practice, a commercially oriented law firm based in Lagos, joined the rankings; while Advocaat Law Practice (ALP), featured in the previous report, dropped out.
The practice areas of the CG coverage of Nigeria expanded in 2021. Over the years, the report has covered five practice areas, namely, Banking and Finance, Corporate/ Commercial, Dispute Resolution, Intellectual Property, and Projects & Energy. A Capital Markets sub-table was added to the Corporate/Commercial practice area in this year's report. The sub-table includes the top legal practitioners with in-depth knowledge in the Nigerian capital markets.
Chambers said although 2020 was a difficult year, the CG 2021 reflects the fact that the legal space continues to be one of increasing importance to the Nigerian economy. The legal industry in the country has dedicated practitioners who have developed vast knowledge and expertise in their respective areas of specialisation. The research and analytics firm, said it found during its research last year that clients continued to provide valuable feedback, extolling the leading firms – with some interviewees referring to the firms as having the ability to “deliver efficient and well-crafted solutions.” Some legal teams were described as “quick-thinkers” and “solutions-oriented.”
While the Nigerian economy slipped into a deep recession in the third quarter of last year on account of the pandemic, this did not necessarily translate into a decline for legal services. As McKinsey & Company said in a report last year, "market difficulties, regulatory responses, stimulus programs, changes in employment, and other stressors provide potential sources of demand for legal services." The knowledge, dynamism, experience, creativity and resourcefulness of Nigerian lawyers have only become more important in the wake of the pandemic.
On a less positive note, the crisis exposed some problems in the Nigerian legal industry. In response to the pandemic, some state and federal high courts issued practice directives for holding court proceedings via video conferencing for urgent matters. The implication was that many cases were not attended to as the lockdowns subsisted. The situation could have been ameliorated if the clamours by farsighted practitioners for investment in technology to enhance court procedures were heeded before the pandemic. Nevertheless, the COVID-19 situation has provided an opportunity for law firms and the industry at large to build more resilience.
The CG 2021 rankings for Nigeria spotlight law firms and lawyers that weathered the challenges in the country last year to remain at the top. The rankings are based on the in-depth research by a dedicated and experienced team of Chambers’ researchers into the work conducted by the law firms and lawyers in 2020.
According to the report’s methodology, the Chambers team invites the firms and practitioners to submit information about the work they have been conducting over the past year. The team also seeks feedback from referees on their experience working with the firms. The lawyers themselves are then interviewed about their impressions of the market.
“In what has been a very challenging year, it has been very encouraging to see more leading Nigerian firms than ever demonstrating an interest in our research,” Nisha Sawon, Deputy Editor of the Chambers Global Guide, said in a statement sent to Financial Nigeria. “We are keen to continue developing our coverage of this diverse market, which continues to display an impressive calibre of legal talent.”
Dominating the CG 2021 Nigeria rankings are four out of the 34 rated firms. They are Aluko & Oyebode, one of the largest integrated law firms in Nigeria; Banwo & Ighodalo (B&I), a leading Nigerian corporate law firm; G. Elias & Co, one of Nigeria's leading business law firms; and AELEX, a full-service commercial and litigation law firm. The firms – also highly rated in the previous reports – are featured in all the five practice areas covered by the guide.
The practice-area rankings of the best law firms and lawyers are produced in bands, with the highest being “Band 1”. For example, five firms – Aluko & Oyebode, B&I, G. Elias, Olaniwun Ajayi LP (OALP), and Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie (UUBO) – were consistently featured in Band 1 of the “Banking and Finance” practice area between 2016-2020. This year, only the first three law firms were in the highest band. The other two are featured in “Band 2,” together with Templars, one of the country's largest full-service law firms.
The other top-rated Nigerian law firms in the latest rankings are Jackson, Etti and Edu (JEE), DETAIL Commercial Solicitors; ACAS-Law (Adepetun, Caxton-Martins, Agbor & Segun); Odujinrin & Adefufu. Others rated firms are Abdulahi, Taiwo & Co; F.O. Akinrele & Co; Sofunde, Osakwe, Ogundipe & Belgore; Ajumogobia & Okeke; Stillwaters Law Firm; O. Kayode & Co; and George Ikoli & Okagbue.
Also featured as in previous years are Wole Olanipekun & Co; Giwa-Osagie & Co; Olajide Oyewole & Co; Solola & Akpana; Allan & Ogunkeye; Kola Awodein & Co; Strachan Partners; Babalakin & Co; SPA Ajibade & Co; Streamsowers & Köhn; Perchstone & Graeys; G.O. Sodipo & Co; and Advisory – Legal Consultants.
The CG Nigeria rankings includes a category, called Senior Statespeople. The section, which identifies distinguished older partners, previously featured only Gbenga Oyebode, Chairman of Aluko & Oyebode. He was recognised as Senior Statesperson across three practices – Banking and Finance, Corporate /Commercial and Projects & Energy. The latest guide ascribes that title to two other Nigerian lawyers: Ademola Akinrele, SAN, Managing Partner of F. O. Akinrele; and Oghogho Akpata, Templars’ Managing Partner.
Chambers designates Dan Agbor, Senior Partner at UUBO, and Aniekan Ukpanah, Managing Partner at the firm, as "Eminent Practitioners" in the new report. Other top Nigerian lawyers, based on CG 2021, are Prof. Konyinsola Ajayi, Managing Partner at OALP; Prof. Gbolahan Elias, Principal Partner at G. Elias; as well as Asue Ighodalo and Femi Olubanwo, both founding partners at B&I.
The report also features Kofo Dosekun, Managing Partner at Aluko & Oyebode; Ayuli Jemide, Lead Partner at DETAIL; Yinka Edu, Partner at UUBO; Funke Adekoya, SAN, Partner at AELEX; Chinyere Okorocha and Uwa Ohiku, both partners at JEE; Sola Adepetun, Founding Partner at ACAS-Law; and Omolara Kayode, Founding Partner at O. Kayode & Co.
Otu Ukoyen, Senior Associate at Olajide Oyewole is a new entrant this year in the CG category for rising stars. He joined two lawyers who were previously featured in the section under Intellectual Property – Uzoamaka Emerole, a Senior Associate of ACAS-Law, and Banwo & Ighodalo’s Chinasa Uwanna.
Find out more about the leading law firms and lawyers in Nigeria in the full rankings produced below.
Martins Hile is Executive Editor, Financial Nigeria magazine.
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