On Thursday, the 16th of July 2020 at another episode of Law As A Business With Charles Ajiboye, FICMC, the topic Starting Small was discussed by Matthew E. Ero,Esq., a special guest who shared his wealth of knowledge and experience with the audience via the Law As A Business WhatsApp group, find below the lecture, questions and comments;
Olajide Ajibowo (Anchor): Before I introduce our guest for tonight, I want to doff my hat for Charles Ajiboye., FICMC for hosting this chat. Thank you sir.
Our guest is: Matthew E. Ero, Esq. B.L (NLS, LAG), LL.B (AAU, Ekpoma), CertmedARB, C.A (USA), Managing Partner Graceville Chambers Lagos.
Matthew is a member of the Nigerian Bar Association, an optimistic individual with a great appetite for novelties, a proactive, goal and value oriented legal professional with an LL.B from the Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma and Certified Mediator and Arbitrator coupled with a robust experience in legal research, legal editing and legal practice. He is also a Conflict Analyst Certified by the United State Institute of Peace (USIP, USA).
As an expert in Corporate and Commercial matters with a deep understanding of Regulatory Frameworks in the Corporate and Commercial world, he provides legal advice and representation to a number of clients and lawyers across global jurisdictions, covering various complex legal issues across several areas of law, especially in Corporate/Commercial litigation and arbitration. He has significant experience representing multinational companies in insolvency disputes and other complex commercial disputes that involve receivership, arbitration, employment law and more.
Over to you sir, Mathew E. Ero, Esq.
Matthew Ero . Esq: I register my appreciation to the host, my friend, brother and colleague in progress – Mr. Charles Ajiboye the Executive Partner of Penthouse Law and a sure candidate for the office of the National Assistant Publicity Secretary of the NBA, for this invitation extended to my humble self to address the topic “LAW BUSINESS… STARTING SMALL”
In 2017 my office was handling a case before the Barkin Ladi High Court, Plateau State and the defendants secured the services of Olisa Agbakoba Legal (OAL).
One day, my partner and I were in a taxi to the airport together with a very senior counsel from OAL. I observed the look on the counsel’s face and he asked me “how did you guys attract a big brief like this”? And my reply was “we started small and God favoured us”.
The fear to START small has kept many imaginary legal colossus on a SPOT. The truth is that if your “start small” button is not enabled, stagnation becomes inevitable.
One of the mighty killers of big dreams is the fear of starting small. I have seen elders who were afraid to start small at their youthful age, employed by young men who put their boldness to action, buried their fears and started small.
One danger about the fear of starting small and the desire to start big is that you would only be growing in age while remaining on a single spot. That’s what I call GROWTH WITHOUT PROGRESS.
A Chinese Proverb says “Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid of standing still”
Please note that NOTHING STARTS BIG AND ENDS BIG AND NOTHING STARTS SMALL AND ENDS SMALL
There’s another Old Chinese Proverb that says “It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward”
It was Confucius who once wrote that “the man who moves a mountain begins by carrying small stones”
It is interesting to know that starting small is not limited to young lawyers, there are senior lawyers who are afraid of starting small too.
NOW LET’S COME DOWN TO BUSINESS…
In my sojourn in this law business, I have been greeted by both junior and senior lawyers who kept asking the following questions :
How did you do it? How do I get the money to rent an office space and furnish it?. How do I get resource to buy books for my library? And some of them conclude my saying I do not even have the knowledge and experience let alone attracting clients.
As lawyers, What does it really mean to start small in this Law Business?
Simply put, starting small means starting with what you have. Then the question that comes to mind is “what do I have?” the funny answer I always give to this is that you have what it takes to start small. I would explain this and I would tell you this for free “You do not need money to start law business, NO LAWYER IS EMPTY!”
As a lawyer who has been called to the Bar, the presumption is that you have the requisite basic and foundational knowlege of both substantive and procedural law. There are four (4) major things you have that you must leverage on if you must start small. I would list and explain them seriatim:
You must understand that your colleagues are assets that can be leveraged on. If you are a young lawyer who is desirous of starting up your own private practice and you don’t have the financial muscle to rent an office space, you must have one or two colleagues who perhaps started their private practice before you and have a physical presence (office). They understand your fears and worries and would help you conquer them. Permit me to make allusions to the Penthouse Law and Graceville. When Mr. Charles Ajiboye started the Penthouse Law, he made use of the garage in his father’s house as his office. He added his usual creative and innovative touch to the place with a table and two chairs (I hope my memory serves me right).
When my Partner and I approached and discussed the idea of starting Graceville Chambers, we had no money to buy new suits let alone an office space (Lols). He was very excited about the idea and offered that we use his office as our address for service, he thereafter made some categorical statements that provoked us to take action. I have reproduced those words hereunder :
“with the numbers of suits and clothes you have now, if you do not buy a new cloth or make new dress in the next 6 months, nobody would know. Just be washing and ironing the ones you have. Things cannot be so bad that you would start eating stones, even if it’s garri, there must be something to eat. And you would always have a shelter above your head, even homeless people have a place to hide from the rain and the sun”
Though my partner and I were working from home, we met with clients in Penthouse and used the address as our address for service for two years UNTIL THE CLIENT THAT PAID THE MONEY FOR OUR OWN OFFICE SPACE CAME.
2. YOUR LIBRARY
[19:34, 16/07/2020] Matthew Ero . Esq: In starting your law business, your first library would consist of those law text you bought while in the university and the ones you “acquired” in the Law school. There’s no law graduate who did not buy or photocopied text books or handout in school. You may not have bought all of the recommended text but I bet you have got some. Having textbooks in the Law school is not even negotiable. (who no go, no go know. Lols).
These materials are really assets in starting small. I remember like yesterday how we had those books properly arranged on the table in the order of their sizes, not even in order of practice areas
It is important to state that with your B.L and LL. B you can become anything you want to in the Law Business. You already have capacity but you need to build on it. A good lawyer is one who never stops building capacity. Your B.L and LL. B gives you the basic and foundational knowledge but there’s need to go deeper and wider in expanding your intellectual horizon. Clients wants to see result within the shortest possible time and not stories. Identify interested practice areas and build capacity in that direction. I have observed that I attract clients in areas I build capacity on. Sometime in 2017 I started building capacity in a particular field of law, I read every materials I could lay my hands on and within a month I received a call from the Executive …
4. RESOURCE PERSONS.
Another asset you have within your reach, are people i call “resource persons”. These are senior members of the Bar who are more grounded in some areas of practice you have a low capacity in. They are persons you can easily run to whenever you meet a brickswall in any complex matter. They are very intelligent and vast in knowledge and are always very willing to give a helping hand. With these resource persons, You would always have a place to run to when you have a client whose matter does not fall within the practice areas covered by the materials in your library. I remember sometime in 2016, my office was doing a case before Hon. Justice Nicole Clay of the Lagos State High Court and we did not at that material time have the requisite materials to prepare t…
You would have observed that from everything I have stated above, it is abundantly clear that you do not need a capital to start small, your law business. If you are committed, faithful and consistent, the client that would pay for your actual office would come, the client that would pay for the furnishing of the office would come, the client that would pay for the stocking of your library (both actual and electronic) would come. The client that would pay for you to run other professional courses would come and the client that would pay the salaries of members of staff of your law firm would come.
I once again appreciate our host- Charles Ajiboye the Executive Partner of the Penthouse Law and a sure candidate for the Office of the National Assistant Publicity Secretary of the NBA, for the invitation and to everyone on this platform for your time. Do have a more lucrative law business and a restful weekend.
Remember this: TAKE SMALL STEPS EVERYDAY AND ONE DAY YOU WOULD GET THERE.
- Victor John: I am entirely triggered to kick start by this legal bath, but sir, as a married junior lawyer who right now basically depends on salary to survive, how possible is it to start small considering his level of responsibilities?
Response: Permit me to make reference to what is called biblical allusion in literature.
The scriptures says he that considers the wind will not sow. Now you have known that you do not need a dime to start. I bet you, your salary would be on a spot while economic realities would keep on increasing. The truth is there’s a price to pay. Your family may feel the heat for a while but you are sure to make progress.
I advise starters to begin with general practice but have in mind area of specialization and begin to develop capacity in that direction.
- J.A Adewale: Thank you sir for this erudite lecture. May you continue to grow bigger.
Sir, my own question is as a lawyer who just started, the question of how to start having client come to mind…
Area of specialisation too depends on ones clients and environment. So how to go about this.
Response: In starting a law business in a small way, your first clients are usually your families, relatives, friends, and relatives of friends. The first set of persons to announce a lawyer in the public space are his family members. A lawyer cannot be hidden.
On the issue of area of specialization, I advise starters to begin with general practice but have in mind area of specialization and begin to develop capacity in that direction. You can’t limit area of specialization to the clients you have now. When you eventually specialize in an area, the clients who need the service would come.
- How do you attract client in areas you newly developed skill?
Response: From my observation, clients naturally gravitate towards the solution to their business/personal legal issues.
However, to be more pragmatic, when you develop new skill in an area of law, start writing and publishing articles online. Sometimes when clients have issues especially corporate clients, they Google Articles in that direction to see if there are lawyers with a skill on that issue.
RB Law Practice: This Law Business Chat is so inspiring and insightful to core. The need to start small is highly noteworthy not minding the challenges it entails and sacrifices that it demands… I remember my former boss told me that if I want to start big I may never start…
Joy Enakhimion: Wonderful lecture Sir, God bless your knowledge, regards to Madam Jennifer
Oga Charles thank you for this platform.
Uyi Samuel Oni: God bless you dearly for these
Olaedo: Wow thank you so much sir for this lecture, I have learned something that I have never known before, thanks again.
Victor John: Mega thanks to the host and teacher, may the wig of honour last long on your heads.
Olajide Ajibowo: Wow! That was a beautiful session sir
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