The need for in-house lawyers to find one another, build a rapport, and share knowledge for mutual growth is long overdue.
This was the focus of an event organised by the African Corporate and Government Counsel (ACGC) Forum on Wednesday and hosted by the law chambers of Banwo & Ighodalo in Lagos State.
Speaking on the sidelines of the event, ACGC Co-founder and Director Nankunda Katangaza stressed the importance of such a social event for in-house lawyers.
Kataganza explained that ACGC exists, in part, to ensure that lawyers working in in-house roles, whether in government or corporate organisations, exchange ideas, and get to know one another.
“The origin of the association itself is such that lawyers working in-house don’t tend to have a gathering place; they have a very different role from lawyers in a law firm like this one,” she stated.
“Often, associations cater to lawyers working in law firms rather than in-house roles. So, they are often a bit isolated from each other. They don’t have enough teams to share their experiences or what they do in common.”
Giving the opening remarks at the event, the Chairman, In-house and Government Counsel Forum, NBA Lagos Branch, Justine Lewa, reiterated that the gathering was primarily for in-house lawyers to network and celebrate the strides recorded by ACGC in 2023.
Lewa also disclosed that the mixer allowed the ACGC Forum’s members to look forward to what 2024 holds for the collaboration between the pan-African institution and the forum of the NBA Lagos branch.
“In addition, we have to jointly organise conferences, seminars, and workshops for the Lagos branch, and ACGC members and beyond,” she noted.
For her part, the chairman of the Lagos NBA in-house forum urged the lawyers in attendance to mingle and exchange contact details to foster collaboration, the event’s aim.
Participants arrived on the terrace of the multi-floor law firm to an assortment of finger foods and beverages as an unending stream of musical hits loosened up the typically buttoned-up professionals to a fun time of hobnobbing, light snooker games, and dancing.
Welcoming the guests on behalf of Banwo & Ighodalo, Ken Etim said, “We have identified with the vision of ACGC and what the organisation stands for its mission, what it seeks to embody and take into the future.”
Established in 2019, the forum for lawyers is held its first annual conference in the southwest Nigerian megacity after co-founders Katangaza and Cynthia Lareine put together a one-day summit for in-house counsel. The association has since grown to have more than 1,000 members in over 20 countries on the continent.
Katangaza shared with attendees at the soiree how the now four-year-old organisation’s creation was inspired by a lunchtime conversation with women at the previous year’s Nigerian Bar Association Section on Business Law (NBA-SBL) conference.
“[The women] happened to be in-house lawyers who were talking about not having a place to gather and not having their events and they kept going to NBA events because they hoped they’d pick up some tips on their in-house lives,” the ACGC Co-founder and Director said.
“So we thought, well, let’s have a summit. And we did.”
By creating a safe space for in-house lawyers’ professional growth, Katangaza sees a promising future for in-house lawyers across Africa, with counterparts from more countries indicating their interest in coming on board.
“We have been talking to some Egyptian in-house counsel, who are very keen for us to have an event in Cairo to bring together the Egyptian in-house counsel and to bring them into the pan-African kind of entity,” she said.
According to the ACGC director, the Forum would love to “do something in each [African] country” with members from “the big Francophone Africa” serving as some of the next targets for the organisation.
“At our annual conference this year in Kigali, we had an in-house counsel from Togo who came and he had just seen it on LinkedIn and thought, ‘This is great,’” she said.
“But he’s also involved with a Francophone body dealing with ‘employed lawyers’, as they call them. We will do something with that entity to try and bring the Francophone lawyers into the ACGC as well.”
With its 2024 annual conference set to be held in Accra, Katangaza assured that hundreds of lawyers will converge from across the continent, including the Rwandan attendees who attended this year’s Kigali event.
“Similarly, we had Ugandan lawyers the year before they came to Kigali,” the ACGC director said. “They’re just planning to keep going, so hopefully, by doing that, you create momentum.”