2017 NBA-SBL conference: Building local capacity in a globalised world

As the legal profession continues to evolve globally amid disruptive technology, the way the profession is practiced also continues to evolve. For the forward-looking lawyer who does not want to be left behind, there is only one option: update your skills and flow with the changing times. This is because as the profession evolves, new opportunities are being created as various segments of the economy increasingly require the services of lawyers. But to tap into these emerging opportunities, lawyers need to build capacity and acquire specialised competencies around these emerging areas.

It is in order to ensure that Nigerian lawyers are not left behind that the forthcoming 2017 annual Business Law Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Business Law (NBA-SBL) is focusing on the changing face of the legal profession and how Nigerian lawyers are preparing for the challenges ahead.

Having come to terms with the fact that indigenous lawyers either up their skills and properly position themselves to take advantage of new opportunities or risk losing out to foreign lawyers who are waiting in the wings to hijack these opportunities, the NBA-SBL has chosen ‘Law and the Changing Face of Legal Practice’ as the theme of this year’s conference, which comes up June 18-20 at Eko Hotel & Suites in Lagos.

“We are excited at the prospect of another conference back in Lagos. We are also excited at the issues we have to deal with at this conference,” said Olumide Akpata, chairman, NBA-SBL, at a press briefing to announce the conference, last Monday.

“We are looking inwards this year, we are looking at issues that relate directly to the practice of law and lawyers themselves,” he said.

Read Also: 2016 NBA-SBL conference targets law reform for economic development

Olubunmi Fayokun, chairman, 2017 Conference Planning Committee, said this year’s conference, the 11th edition, would seek to address the global evolution of legal practice, the future of the profession, innovative trends and the impact of disruptive technology on the practice of law.

“The legal profession is changing, the world is changing. If we don’t prepare ourselves and adapt, we would be left behind,” she said.

Running through the nine sessions lined up for the two-and-a-half-day conference, Fayokun said there would be a session on globalisation and the prospects of open borders vis-à-vis the provision of legal services, themed ‘Re-defining the Provision of Cross-Border Legal Services: Globalising Your Practice’, as well as how the practice of law is changing at a rapid speed in other jurisdictions and how prepared Nigerian firms are to embrace this new facet of the profession.

A session on ‘Technology, Innovation and the Law Firm of the Future’, she said, is expected to touch on how lawyers can leverage technology to improve service delivery, law firm management and professional development, as well as online reputation, cryptocurrency, the malaise of fake news, over-the-top services, and new platforms threatening to disrupt legal education and legal services delivery in Nigeria as we know it.

Similarly, a session on ‘Developing Skills and Capacity: Redefining the Architecture’ will take delegates through the challenges peculiar to Nigerian lawyers in terms of building capacity, with the panel focusing on legal education at universities and the law school, the role of CLE programmes, on-the-job-training as well as international experiences.

Other themes to be addressed by the sessions, Fayokun said, include ‘The Future of Legal Practice – Are You Ready?’, ‘Creating an Efficient System of Justice Delivery’, ‘Legal Services Procurement – What Do Clients Really Want?’, ‘Dead Lawyers Don’t Work – Embracing a Lifestyle of Health and Wellness’, and ‘The Changing Face of the Entertainment Industry – Prospects and Opportunities’.

“There will also be a Corporate Counsels’ session, which will provide an opportunity for legal practitioners to network with general counsel and other in-house counsel,” she said.

To ensure very enriching discussions and outcomes, the NBA-SBL has also not left any stone unturned in getting high-powered resource persons. While Senate President Bukola Saraki is expected to give the keynote speech at the opening ceremony on June 18, each of the nine sessions boasts of seasoned professionals as speakers, chairpersons and panellists.

They include Konyinsola Ajayi (SAN), a professor and managing partner, Olaniwun Ajayi LP, Ernest Ojukwu (SAN), partner, OFY Lawyers, Olamide Oladosu, partner, Clifford Chance, Mirian Kene Kachikwu, general counsel, Seplat, Kenneth Okwor, associate, Templars, Gbenga Oyebode, chairman, Aluko & Oyebode, Dotun Sulaiman, chairman, Financial Reporting Council Nigeria, Mia Essien (SAN), partner, Principles Law Firm, Babatunde Ajibade (SAN), Ingo Herbert, Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Seun Abimbola, Attorney-General of Oyo State, Kola Aina, Group MD/CEO, Emerging Platforms Group, and Leo Stan Ekeh, MD, Zinox.

Others are Asue Ighodalo, founding partner, Banwo & Ighodalo and immediate past chairman of NBA-SBL, Richard Mofe Damijo, vice chairman, Entertainment Law Committee of the SBL, Mena Ajakpovi, partner, Abraham & Co, Gerry Riskin, founding principal/chairman, Edge International, Yetunde Johnson, MD/CEO, Slingshot Technologies Limited, MacJohnson Odey II, MD/CEO,, Enyiola Madubuike, LegitNG, John Edokpolo, legal counsel, Microsoft West, East & Southern Africa, Rotimi Ogunyemi, partner, Bayo Ogunyemi & Co., George Etomi, principal partner, George Etomi & Partners, Jay Krishna, professor of Law, Indiana University, Nankunda Katangaza, co-founder, Hook Tangaza, Dafe Akpedeye (SAN), principal partner, Compos Mentis, among others.

Interestingly, against the backdrop of an alarming rate of lifestyle and stress-related diseases, the NBA-SBL is dedicating a session at this year’s conference to health and wellness of lawyers, themed ‘Dead Lawyers Don’t Work – Embracing a Lifestyle of Health and Wellness’.

“Amid long hours, heavy workload and the pursuit of client satisfaction, the Nigerian lawyer’s physical and mental health is increasingly at risk. In this session, wellness experts will discuss health risks peculiar to the legal profession and mitigating practices for achieving a balance between the demands of the profession and a healthier life,” Fayokun said.

She also announced that there would also be a light-hearted debate on ‘Rules of Professional Conduct in the 21st Century: Challenging the Status Quo’, the first of its kind at the NBA-SBL Conferences, while the conference will end with a closing party on June 20.

To ensure that the conference does not become a mere talk shop, Seni Adio (SAN), vice chair, NBA-SBL, said that over the years the conference had produced reports that were submitted to government for action and that this year’s would not be different.

But beyond the conference, he explained, the NBA-SBL constantly engages with government and its relevant agencies with the aim of coming up with right actions that will ensure the general wellbeing of the nation’s economy.

For instance, he said, the SBL is working with the National Assembly Business Environment Roundtable (NASSBER), a collaboration between the Senate, the Nigerian Economic Summit Group and the NBA Section on Business Law, as well as the Presidential Council on Ease of Doing Business (PEBEC), to improve Nigeria’s business environment. Through its joint committee with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), the body is also working to improve operations of the CAC and, ultimately, the business environment.

Other members of the NBA-SBL present at the press briefing included Okey Egbuchu, conference vice chair, Priscilla Ogwemoh, secretary, NBA-SBL, Adeoye Adefulu, chair, SBL Training Committee & chair, Conference Programmes Committee, and Tolulope Aderemi, vice chair, SBL Training Committee. They lent their voices in clarifying some of the issues raised in the course of the briefing.

The NBA-SBL, a special arm of the Nigerian Bar Association which engenders the development of commercial law and specialised commercial law practice in Nigeria, uses its annual conference to seek to create an environment for business lawyers within and outside Nigeria to network and engage on issues relevant to their fields and to establish a thriving relationship between the business community and government institutions.

The SBL currently has 19 committees focused on specialized areas of commercial law practice and addressing issues from different sectors of the Nigerian economy. Through its committees and strategic partnerships with government parastatals and/or legislative bodies, the section organises regular workshops, seminars and training programmes for members, with a view to promoting commercial and business interests in Nigeria.

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