Nigeria's top law firms and lawyers: Chambers Global 2020 rankings
According to Chambers, the 2020 rankings serve to highlight Nigeria’s position as a strong African market, which offers top-quality legal services.
The highly-anticipated Chambers Global (CG) 2020 rankings, which feature Nigeria's top law firms and lawyers, were released on February 13 by Chambers and Partners (www.chambers.com), the world's leading research and analytics firm for the legal profession. Over the last 20 years, the London-headquartered company has gained a reputation for providing in-depth and research-based legal directories of the best law firms and top-tier lawyers worldwide.
The Chambers Global Guide is widely regarded as a resource for public and private sector entities that are looking for trusted professional advice or reliable information on the global legal market. The annual guides comprise regional rankings, which rate the leading law firms and lawyers in over 200 jurisdictions, including Nigeria. The latest Nigeria rankings feature 34 law firms in the country with known expertise in various areas of legal practice, including business law and commercial law.
The CG 2020 coverage of Nigeria includes five practice areas: Banking and Finance, Corporate/Commercial, Dispute Resolution, Intellectual Property and Projects & Energy. Since 2016 when Financial Nigeria began exclusive reporting of the rankings for Nigeria, the rankings have continued to expand in scope and recognition within and outside the legal industry.
Two firms joined the latest rankings of leading law firms in Nigeria. They are: Punuka Attorneys & Solicitors – a fully integrated and multi-dimensional business law practice founded in 1947 – and Bloomfield Law Practice, a Lagos-based specialist commercial law firm established in 2007. These new entrants on the rankings increased the total number from 32 in 2019 to 34 this year.
According to Chambers, the 2020 rankings serve to highlight Nigeria’s position as a strong African market, which offers top-quality legal services. The country’s leading firms continue to receive high acclaim from the wider market. Various commentators have described the leading Nigerian law firms as having “highly capable” staff, with ability to “deliver great legal service” and an impressive “client commitment.”
The annual CG guides are products of in-depth studies conducted by Chambers' nearly 200 dedicated and experienced researchers. The team of researchers speaks to thousands of legal firms and professionals on their work over the past year. The studies also include interviews with clients and General Counsels who provide feedback on their experiences working with the legal firms. Apart from giving information on their work during the year, lawyers also provide their impressions of the markets where they operate.
As the rankings became increasingly influential over the years, the number of law firms that have indicated their interest to participate in the research has also grown. This was confirmed in a note to Financial Nigeria by Nisha Sawon, Deputy Editor of the Chambers Global Guide. She said: “We have seen an increasing interest from Nigerian firms in participating in our research. Nigeria is home to a well-developed legal market that we are eager to capture accurately. We appreciate the continued participation and insight the firms have offered us into this diverse and growing market.”
By virtue of being Africa's largest economy, Nigeria is indeed a dynamic legal market. Also being an election year in the country, 2019 threw up a lot of legal activities relating to electoral disputes. Many candidates who did not get satisfactory findings at the tribunal sought the intervention of appellate courts, some going all the way to the Supreme Court. Suffice to say that pubic trust in the Nigerian legal system further declined last year, not least due to some of the court decisions on electoral disputes.
In a positive development, however, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows in Nigeria accelerated by 71 per cent to $3.4 billion in 2019. According to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), much of the FDI was “resource-seeking inflows" in Nigeria's oil and gas sector. Needless to say, a strong legal system, as well as sound policy and stable regulatory environment often underpin the attractiveness of a market for capital flows.
The resurgence of FDI in Nigeria last year coincided with the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement last July after initially being hesitant. The free trade area is expected to be a game changer for cross-border transactions and the associated legal services. Nigerian lawyers who can advise businesses on risks and challenges of intra-Africa trade will play a critical role in helping businesses structure their transactions, resolve potential disputes, and navigate complex and vast regulatory environments on the continent.
Among the 34 firms on the CG 2020 Nigeria rankings, only four are featured in all the five practice areas covered by the guide. Furthermore, the practice-level rankings of the best law firms and lawyers are produced in bands, with the highest being “Band 1”.
For instance, the following firms have been consistently ranked in Band 1 of the “Banking and Finance” practice area since 2016. They are: Aluko & Oyebode, one of the largest integrated law firms in Nigeria; Banwo & Ighodalo, a leading Nigerian corporate law firm; G. Elias & Co, one of Nigeria's leading business law firms; Olaniwun Ajayi LP, a leading Nigerian commercial law firm; and Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie, a multi-specialisation full-service firm.
Aluko & Oyebode is one of only four firms that dominate the 2020 rankings in all the five practice areas. The other three are Banwo & Ighodalo, G. Elias and Co, and AELEX, a full-service commercial and litigation law firm. Meanwhile, only three firms – namely Jackson, Etti and Edu, Templars, and Olaniwun Ajayi LP – are ranked in four different practice areas.
The other top Nigerian law firms in the CG 2020 rankings are Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie; Detail Commercial Solicitors; ACAS-Law (Adepetun, Caxton-Martins, Agbor & Segun); Abdulahi, Taiwo & Co; and Odujinrin & Adefufu. Others are F.O. Akinrele & Co; Sofunde, Osakwe, Ogundipe & Belgore; Ajumogobia & Okeke; Stillwaters Law Firm; O. Kayode & Co; George Ikoli & Okagbue.
Also featured are Wole Olanipekun & Co; Giwa-Osagie & Co; Olajide Oyewole & Co; Solola & Akpana; Allan & Ogunkeye; Kola Awodein & Co; Strachan Partners; Babalakin & Co; SPA Ajibade & Co; Advocaat Law Practice; Streamsowers & Köhn; Perchstone & Graeys; and G.O. Sodipo & Co; and Advisory – Legal Consultants.
The CG 2020 is a veritable go-to guide for top-flight lawyers with the skills and experience across the various practice areas. The leading Nigerian lawyers, based on CG 2020, include Dan Agbor, Senior Partner at Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie; Prof. Konyinsola Ajayi, Managing Partner at Olaniwun Ajayi LP; Prof. Gbolahan Elias, Principal Partner at G. Elias & Co; and Asue Ighodalo, Founding Partner at Banwo & Ighodalo.
Others are Femi Olubanwo, Partner at Banwo & Ighodalo; Kofo Dosekun, Managing Partner at Aluko & Oyebode; Ayuli Jemide, Lead Partner at Detail Commercial Solicitors; Funke Adekoya, Partner/Head, Dispute Resolution Practice Group at AELEX; Chinyere Okorocha and Uwa Ohiku, both Partners at Jackson, Etti & Edu; Sola Adepetun, Founding Partner at ACAS-Law; Omolara Kayode, Founding Partner at O. Kayode & Co.; and Oghogho Akpata, Managing Partner at Templars.
The rankings also include a section called Senior Statespeople. First introduced in 2019, the section identifies distinguished older partners. Gbenga Oyebode, Chairman of Aluko & Oyebode, is the only lawyer featured in this section. According to Chambers, he is recognised as such across three practices – Banking and Finance, Corporate /Commercial and Projects & Energy.
Chambers also identifies associates who are rising stars in some practice areas. The two associates to watch out for in Nigeria are Uzoamaka Emerole, a Senior Associate of ACAS-Law who is versed in intellectual property (IP) law, and Banwo & Ighodalo’s Chinasa Uwanna – who is touted for her vast experience in IP law practice.
With the CG 2020 rankings, governments, businesses and individuals looking to purchase legal services in Nigeria would be able to make informed decisions regarding where to find quality legal advice.
The full rankings are produced below.
Martins Hile is Executive Editor, Financial Nigeria magazine
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