BusinessDay

Babatunde Lawal: Entrepreneur reengineering legal delivery

Babatunde Lawal, chief executive officer of HARLEM Solicitors, is among the entrepreneurs providing Nigerians and businesses with access to legal services and products that are efficient and cost-effective.

Lawal, a lawyer, was inspired to establish his corporate law firm – which focuses on telecommunication law, after gaining over 14 years of experience with top chambers and as an in-house counsel in the telecoms industry.

“After leaving the corporate industry as an in-house counsel, where l was for 14 years gathering knowledge, experience, and exposure, it was entirely predictable that the pointedly significant area of my inspiration and experience would inevitably lead me to establish and own a corporate law firm,” he says.

Lawal says his initial capital was from his savings as an in-house counsel. “l was able to save enough capital to jump-start the business. In any case, the advice is always to start small.”

“Every business that has made it today started small. You don’t have to impress anyone. We started on a shoe-string budget, but today, we are happy to see where we are within the first four years,” he says.

“Am sure that what we have achieved today, great as it is, is but a prelude to vast attainments yet to come. The panacea is to remain focused, despite the odds and brambles. Be focused and be prayerful,” he notes.

Since its establishment, HARLEM has emerged as one of the leading law firms in Ibadan, Oyo state.

“Among notable corporate and commercial firms in Oyo State and beyond, HARLEM has also mounted a rafter of glory and adulation that now boasts of a first-of-its-kind legal workspace for law firms. We now rank the top three law firms in Ibadan and the state, and we are also in the category of top three highest-paying law firms in Ibadan,” he states.

He says his law business grew through diligence and hard work from the top management to the last employee in the firm.

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“We have built a good number of loyal, quality, brilliant, talented, and culture-fit workforce that are adequate for our present need and we are doing all we can to look after their psychological safety and overall wellbeing with established and entrenched employee-friendly practices as well as intrinsic and extrinsic motivation policies put in place,” he notes.

According to him, HARLEM plans to open a new state-of-the-art office complex to expand its growth and offerings in the short run and have an office in Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt in the long run.

As part of the law firm’s social corporate responsibility (CSR), he says HARLEM provides start-ups and indigent individuals discounted and responsive legal services and sometimes for free.

“The support rendered by our firm also includes regular visits to correctional centers to render pro bono legal services to inmates who have been wrongfully detained,” he says.

“We are also glad to be investing massively in undergraduates and fresh graduates and connecting them with paid physical and virtual internships since we founded HARLEM,” he adds.

Speaking on some of the challenges confronting the business, he says running a law firm focused on telecommunication law is a big challenge for a city like Ibadan that is replete with only litigation law firms.

“The challenge becomes pronounced for a firm like HARLEM that chooses telecommunications law as its major area of practice, with the headquarters of the majority of the telecoms giants in Lagos, it becomes a challenge although this has not in any way ruffled or unsettled us.”

The business has leveraged technology to address this challenge.

On his advice to other entrepreneurs, he says, “individual and collective team spirit and drives towards ‘near-suicidal commitment’ to excellence and perfection will take any start-up far.”

“Every start-up will have its share of the near-ubiquitous challenge besetting them. Develop the aplomb, resilience, and fortitude to face the challenges and not be deterred by them,” he advises.

“Carve a niche for yourselves and be entirely on top of their compliance game at all times to remain in practice,” he adds.

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