Senior Advocate of Nigeria and renowned authority in the Law of Telecommunication in Nigeria, Paul Usoro SAN has shared his thoughts to members of the legal community, on things he believes that will uplift a practitioner in the voyage of his or her legal practice in Nigeria.
The Learned silk who was speaking in his capacity as a guest speaker at the NBA section on the Legal Practice conference in Port Harcourt, highlighted key areas lawyers must consider in making their practice of the law worth the while.
Mr. Usoro while sharing his views stated that the quality of one’s work determines what he or she earns. According to him, many lawyers do not plan as they try as much as possible to be masters of all trades. Giving various examples of his hard works, Mr. Usoro stressed that lawyers must have a good planning for effective achievement.
According to him, Law practice is a business therefore lawyers need to view it as such.
He thus emphasized that you need to ascertain what type of practice and where you practice, noting that your type of practice and place of practice invariably determines what you earn.
”We as lawyers are not always good at planning, we try to go into everything and that is what makes “Jack of all trades the master of none”. When the GSM auction was to take place, argument was canvassed that no Nigerian has ever done it before which is true. We did it and it was internationally rated as the best. The same argument was also canvassed when we were drafting the communication Act. Since 2003 that the Law has been passed, there has not been a single amendment to it because the law is adjudged to be the best. When I was to prepare the telecommunications law, there were doubts whether a Nigerian lawyer can do it and the conclusion was that Nigerians cannot handle it. Eventually, I prepared it and when they went through it, it became the best in the world. Since 2003 that I prepared the law, it has not been challenged anywhere and it has never been amended.
”The quality of your work determines the fee you will earn and by planning this helps you to be at the top level of your earnings.”
According to him, lawyers must aim to be at the top level of their practice and that will determine the fees that they command. To him, lawyers really must have a safety valve when dealing with clients and companies in particular; and that If they do not keep records, it will be very difficult to put a cost to their work.
Speaking further, he said that one of the challenges in litigation is timing (the time it takes to complete litigation). When negotiating, it is good to have a safety valve which will enable your ability to renegotiate if the time exceeds what you had expected. To him, your environment also plays a big role in determining the type of fees you charge.
”If your office appears tattered, the client is likely to price you the way you appear. So appearance is very key in our practice. In a scenario where a client enters your office and it looks well taken care of, it automatically determines your fees.
“Your environment and dressing determines the fees that you charge. Clients judge and price you accordingly.”
Finally the learned gave a pointer to another important factor in a successful practice life, which is the act of maintaining a good and solid relationship with clients. He said that
lawyers must make clients their friend; update them on the level of their cases and quite naturally a good working relationship will be established.
“Client relationship is key. Communicating the intricacies in cases to clients, aids the clients to appreciate the quality of work you are providing and enhances your earning capacity,” he said.
”The issue of fees is essential because it is from the fees we are able to take care of our juniors. It cannot be ignored or taken lightly.
Your ability to create and maintain client relationship is very critical to your practice. Client service relationship also goes a long way to determine your fees,” he added.
Conclusively he said that practicing these facets in the profession has been the secret of his success so far in his many years of practice.
Below is a summary of the factors that affect our fee earning capabilities as enunciated by Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN at the NBA Section on Legal Practice Conference:
1. Poor planing/record keeping by lawyers
2. The quality of work
3. Time of completion of work
4. Charging of hourly fees
5. Work environment
6. Client relationship