A success fee is the added fee that a lawyer is entitled to if his or her client’s case is successful. Mrs Adekoya decried the payment of “peanuts” to external counsel by corporate organisations in some instances, such as N300,000 as legal fee for litigations involving claims worth millions. “In-house counsel seem to be averse to success fees. If I win a case, give me success fee,” she said. The SAN spoke in Lagos at a breakfast meeting with heads of legal departments of corporate organisations, organised by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Section on Legal Practice (SLP). Its theme was: “The Legal Practitioners Act and Commercial Transactions”. Mrs Adekoya, who is SLP Council member and International Legal Practice Committee chairperson, pointed out that while most companies respect the scale of fees of other professionals and pay them accordingly, they usually engage in endless bargaining with lawyers. “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys,” she said, urging corporate lawyers to ensure that their external counsel are well paid to enable them meet their training and manpower development needs. The meeting was an opportunity for in-house lawyers to share their expectations of external counsel. They spoke of the need for external counsel to provide the sort of quality services that foreign lawyers give. They also urged law firms to put their houses in order, as some de-market themselves by not being thorough and professional. Others spoke of the need to treat each other with respect and work together collaboratively rather than undermining each other. Speakers highlighted the need to bring the Legal Practitioners Act up to date with modern realities, especially as regards the duties of in-house counsel. SLP Professional Ethics Committee chair, Folashade Alli, noted that some rules of the profession have become outdated and need to be amended. Prof. Kanyinsola Ajayi (SAN) urged lawyers to equip themselves so as to remain on the cutting edge. According to him, legal practice is suffering from disruptions through technology, with legal services being commoditised. Mrs Funke Aboyade (SAN) said it was not dignifying for corporate organisations to insist that external counsel must attend their training with threats to strike their names off their lists if they do not. SLP chairperson Mrs Miannaya Essien reminded corporate counsel that foreign lawyers are not allowed to practice in Nigeria. “If you’re aware of the rules and you don’t take the necessary steps, you’re also guilty of misconduct. If you don’t like the rules, be a part of that change,” she said. Also calling for better pay for external counsel, she added: “In-house counsel will retire. If you pay external counsel poorly, when you join us, you will also be paid poorly.” Mrs Essien told reporter that the event was organised as a forum to engage with in-house counsel. “We felt it was important to have an engagement with in-house counsel– legal advisers, company secretaries and people, who are in the business of providing in-house legal work. We thought it would be best to have it as a private engagement,” she said. She recalled that the NBA had raised the issue of foreigners practicing law in Nigeria, emphasising that such would not happen without the companies allowing it. Mrs Essien was of the view that a lot of work in-house counsel do takes a lot work away from younger lawyers, leading to complaints that young lawyers are not getting enough work. “So, if we’re able to draw the attention of in-house counsel to some of the things they cannot do, we do believe that it will create more work for young lawyers and we do need to make more work available for young lawyers,” she said. SLP Treasurer, Mrs Boma Alabi, who earlier spoke of the need to review the rules, told reporters that the corporate counsel were invited to the short breakfast meeting because they hardly had time for conferences. “The plan is that we’ll be having an event every month between now and August when this team will hand over. That will be in different parts of the country. They will be on topics that enhance legal practice,” she said. On the meeting’s outcome, she said: “We have agreed that we’re on the same side, which is an important milestone. It’s not them against us; it’s lawyers on the same side. That was established. We recognise their challenges, and they also recognise ours. We gave each other feedback. “In-house counsel are our colleagues and our clients. To that extent, the interaction told us what we have in common and how to build on them for better practice and better service delivery.” On the rules, Mrs Alabi added: “The current legislation certainly needs to be improved on and it’s in our best interest for all of us to work together to improve it.”]]>
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