Nigeria's best law firms and lawyers in Chambers Fintech 2021
The professionals featured in the guide include specialists in blockchain, cryptocurrencies, payments and lending.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of digitalisation, which is facilitating the delivery of products and services and improving various processes of life and business. There has been widespread application of digital technologies in the response to the pandemic. Big data and artificial intelligence (AI) have been deployed for surveillance, testing and contact tracing to curb the spread of infection. The provision of financial support to organisations and individuals hardest hit by the crisis has been done using mobile payment applications and other digital solutions.
The financial technology (fintech) sector has been critical in the delivery of financial services during the pandemic. Digital financial transactions, especially electronic payments, increased in 2020. As a result, the fintech market was among the few economic sectors that showed resilience despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.
Investment funding in the fintech sector also increased last year. Global fintech investment reached $44 billion in 2020, a 14 per cent year-on-year growth, compared with 2019, according to Innovate Finance, a UK-based membership association for the fintech community.
The growth in fintech necessitates a corresponding rise in the demand for professional services, including legal and consulting. It takes leading professionals to be able to properly advise innovators and start-ups on securing financing and strategic partnerships; and navigating regulatory issues and other critical business challenges. A directory of the best legal professional advisers with the ability to guide fintech companies through challenges and obstacles they might face is published every year by Chambers and Partners (www.chambers.com), the world's leading provider of legal research and analysis.
The Chambers FinTech (CF) 2021, which includes the leading law firms and lawyers in fintech practice in Nigeria, was published last month by the London-based firm. The directory has been expanding over the years. The growing coverage of the Nigerian legal market is particularly attributed to the burgeoning innovations in financial services. Nigeria is one of the biggest fintech hubs in Africa, with over 200 fintech standalone companies, besides the fintech solutions offered by banks and mobile network operators.
The country attracted 25 per cent ($122 million) of the $491.6 million fintech funding raised by African tech startups in 2019 – second only to Kenya, which attracted $149 million – according to a report by McKinsey & Company. One month after the release of McKinsey's report last September, Paystack, a Lagos-based fintech company, made global headlines with its acquisition by the American tech company, Stripe, for over $200 million.
The total number of Nigerian law firms featured in the CF guide increased from only one in 2019 to seven last year. There are nine firms in the 2021 report. The top law firms in fintech practice are featured in bands, with the highest-ranked being “Band 1.” Olaniwun Ajayi LP (OALP) and Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie (UUBO) are ranked in Band 1, the same as in the previous year; Banwo & Ighodalo (B&I) and TNP – The New Practice (Band 2); ǼLEX and Olajide Oyewole LLP (Band 3); and Templars is in Band 4.
The new entrants in this year's report are G. Elias & Co, one of Nigeria's leading business law firms; and Duale, Ovia & Alex-Adedipe (DOA), a bespoke full-service commercial law firm. The two firms are ranked in Band 4 together with Templars.
The CF 2021 was published ahead of the Chambers Global (CG) 2021 rankings for Nigeria – which were released exclusively to Financial Nigeria and published in the March 2021 edition of this publication. It highlights the work the law firms conducted in the past year based on feedback gathered by Chambers from clients of the firms and interviews with the fintech lawyers themselves.
The report also features some clients’ testimonials on the firms and their fintech lawyers. For instance, OALP is recognised for its expertise in payments, cryptocurrency and blockchain regulatory matters. The firm advised Flutterwave, a Nigerian fintech startup, on its partnership with Kenyan fintech company WAPI Pay on the launch of WeChat payments and remittances for African merchants. According to a client testimony, OALP is "One of the best firms in Nigeria.”
According to Chambers, Olajide Oyewole has demonstrated capability in data protection and data privacy regulation, in addition to advising clients on legal matters pertaining to intellectual property issues. The Lagos-based firm advised Cosmic Intelligent Labs on processing the licence for its agent banking app, Kudi, from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The CF 2021 features 11 legal practitioners, up from seven that were featured in last year's report. Among the top-flight lawyers are Yinka Edu, a Partner at UUBO and head of the firm's capital markets and fintech team. She is reputed to have considerable expertise in advising clients in various areas, including mobile lending, cryptocurrencies and crowdfunding. Edu is featured along with her colleague, Folake Elias-Adebowale, a partner in UUBO’s private equity and corporate advisory practice.
Another practitioner ranked in the latest fintech guide is Damilola Salawu, Partner at OALP and head of the firm's Technology, Innovation and FinTech practice. Others are Babajimi Ayorinde, TNP's Founding Partner who also heads the firm's Commercial Dispute Resolution Practice Group.; Isa Alade, Partner at B&I and expert in fintech transactions; and Davidson Oturu, Partner at ǼLEX's Intellectual Property, TMT, Corporate and Commercial Practice Group.
Tunde Oyewole and Sandra Oyewole, both partners at Olajide Oyewole, are the firm’s key contacts for their fintech practice. Other top fintech lawyers are Adeleke Alex-Adedipe, Managing Partner at DOA; Fred Onuobia, Managing Partner at G. Elias; and Chike Obianwu, Partner at Templars.
According to Chambers, the CF 2021 guide is a unique proposition to people and organisations who want to find the best professional advisers or want to enhance their profile within the innovative environment. The professionals featured in the guide include specialists with expertise in different segments of the fintech market, including blockchain and cryptocurrencies, payments and lending, as well as data protection and cybersecurity.
Apart from their technical legal ability, the lawyers ranked by the research and analytics firm demonstrate professional conduct, commercial awareness/ astuteness, diligence, commitment, and other qualities most valued by clients.
The full ranking is produced below.
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