05 Dec

The borders are disappearing and the walls are closing in, but who is regarded as a 21st Century African Lawyer?

The 21st Century African lawyer is one who is aware of the shifting sands, the times & seasons, the ebbs & flows; and is positioned to ride the crest. He is more than a prosecutor or a litigator. He is also a Disputes Lawyer. With the rise and rise of ADR, a disputes lawyer is able to represent parties or sit as an arbitrator in several countries, without being qualified to practice law there.

What are the Key Challenges of the 21st Century African Lawyer?

Clients: You could collaborate with Procurement & Legal Operations Experts looking to either save money on outside counsel and/or decrease legal risk by insourcing. You are constantly under growing pressure with fewer responses from clients. They are continually requesting discounts, lower rates, capped fees, extras, & other benefits.
The bottom line? Clients are becoming increasingly assertive and sophisticated.

Unexpected Rivals:  You have Alternative Legal Services Providers (ALSPs), providers of low to medium-level legal services. New legal technology, completing automating activities that were formerly reserved for attorneys. Accounting Firms, using massive scale and C-level connections to obtain 'run-of-the-mill jobs'
The bottom line? These options and alternatives are now available. The legal market is segmenting itself. Lawyers are losing entry-level to mid-level jobs.

Lawyers/Law firms: Legal firms are now prioritising customer service, improving user experience and providing client-specific value. Your expertise and quality are strengths, but they are insufficient. You've to overcome the individual mindset and build a corporate culture.
The bottom line? Law firms designed for the old market (when the lawyer was the only game in town) must transition to the new market.

10 Ways African Lawyers/Law Firms Can Adapt

Challenge Conventions within firms: 'Would we have done it this way if we hadn't previously been doing it this way or if we hadn't done it at all?' Allow younger lawyers, in particular, to challenge firm customs and propose innovations. Frequently ask the clients how to serve them better.

Optimize your model: Leverage technology & process optimization to develop a productive operation.

Leverage your knowledge: Apply your expertise to give tailored workshops and courses on legal issues.

Speak your clients’ language: Learn the client's language. Remove the superfluous Latin sentences. Simplify the words in your counsel.

Disrupt yourself first: How can you ensure a drastic change in industry/market as a result of technological innovation. 'Why, how, and where is the competitor beating us?' 'What must we do to meet and address it?' Invest in it and use it!

Embrace technology: Automate tasks, create apps, and recall that the ink pen and typewriter were once considered technology!

Value your young lawyers: Recognize them as a valuable resource; tap into their creativity; encourage their participation in significant decisions, and allow flexi-time/work-from-home.

Research & develop: Make a budget for it, invest in it, and use it. Apply a 'design thinking' (practical and problem-solving) approach to customer challenges.

Deliver services online: That is where everyone is right now. Move from the traditional lawyer/law firm.

Be the future: Lead the way, be the lawyer/law firm that everyone aspires to be [or beat]

Republished with the kind permission of ACE ANAN ANKOMAH, Senior Partner Bentsi-enchill, Letsa & Ankomah Ghana.

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