East Africa Law Society Retreat – Zanzibar

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East Africa Law Society Retreat – Zanzibar

On 28 and 29 June, Rob Millard (Cambridge Strategy Group, Cambridge) and Tammy Beira (Bowmans, Johannesburg) represented the IBA Law Firm Management Committee (LFMC) in helping to facilitate a number of workshop sessions on the topic ‘Building the African law firm of the future.’ This was at a retreat organised by the East African Law Society (EALS) for managing partners of larger East African law firms and in-house legal counsel of East African businesses. For the LFMC, this was a continuation of engagement with East African bar associations that commenced in 2013 and has seen Rob work with bars and law firms in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe; and also Nigeria in west Africa.

The 2018 retreat continued the tradition of debating the place of East African law firms in the development of the region. Held over two-days, it was designed as a dialogue between the speakers and the delegates. Emerging trends in practice, technological advances including Artificial Intelligence, human resource and change management, brand management and intellectual property were all extensively discussed, in the context of law firm management. In preparation for the event, Cambridge Strategy Group conducted a survey of perceptions regarding the future of legal services in Africa (see attached.)

Mr James Kamau, Chairman of DLA Piper Africa

Following a keynote address by Karim Anjarwalla, Managing Partner of Anjarwalla & Khanna in Nairobi, the first session of the workshop was delivered. This consisted of a number of short presentations offering perspectives on the future of African legal services, by:

– Rob Millard (Director, Cambridge Strategy Group, Cambridge, UK)
– James Kamau (Chairman, DLA Piper Africa, Nairobi, Kenya)
– Karim Anjarwalla (Managing Partner, Anjarwalla & Khanna, Nairobi, Kenya)
– Tammy Beira (Partner, Bowmans, Johannesburg, South Africa)
– Mohammed Nyaoga (Senior Partner, Mohammed Muigai Advocates, Nairobi, Kenya and Chairman, Central Bank of Kenya)

Sessions in the afternoon and the kickoff of day two covered aspects of brand visibility for law firms, succession planning, managing professional services firms, emerging trends in Intellectual Property and management metrics for law firms.

We also heard from leaders of law firms in South Sudan, Burundi and Rwanda about the particular challenges facing firms in those jurisdictions. The speaker from South Sudan struck a particular chord as he described the challenges that lawyers encounter around even the most basic concepts of the ‘rule of law,’ given the unstable socio-political environment and the paucity of lawyers (roughly one per thirty thousand head of population)

After the morning coffee break on Friday, we moved into the second session of the IBA-assisted workshop. This consisted of a presentation of the results from the survey on ‘The African Law Firm of the Future’ which had been conducted as a precursor to the retreat, followed by two breakout groups. The first breakout, facilitated by Tammy Beira, addressed training needs for African law firms. The second, facilitated by Karim Anjarwalla, addressed what African law firms would need to do in order to double their revenues within 3 – 5 years.

Karim Anjarwalla, Managing Partner of Anjarwalla & Khanna, Nairobi, Kenya, facilitating the breakout discussion of growth

Report-back in plenary followed, presenting the findings of each group as below:

Training needs

The group focused the discussion on the need for technical training, particularly by in-house legal counsel and small law firms. There were suggestions made regarding the opportunities for in-house legal counsel to request such training from their panel law firms, and for younger lawyers in bigger firms to raise their profile and build their network and client base by reaching out and offering the required training.

There was a discussion about the EALS making additional in-person and online training modules available. Tammy also shared the option of accessing open online learning courses (MOOCs – www.mooc-list.com) like Coursera (https://www.coursera.org/); and edX (www.edx.org). The IBA LFMC webinars and other activities were also offered as a means of developing knowledge and skills.

In the report back from the breakout and also in the summing up at the end of the retreat, several participants raised the need for more training both of substantive legal knowledge and on business management.

Tammy Beira, Partner at Bowmans in Johannesburg, South Africa, facilitating the breakout discussion on training needs.

Doubling revenues in 3 – 5 years

Short term action points (to be accomplished in the next 3 months)

– Streamline HR through recruitment, incentive programmes and training
– Put in place programmes for staff retention
– Communicate more efficiently with clients
– Assess current practice areas to determine which are profitable / not
– Take time to understand why the firm wishes to collaborate and the ideal characteristics of the firm/organization with which to collaborate
– Train business support staff to understand their role in the firm better
– Delegate more

Mid-term action points (to be accomplished in the next 2 years)

– Map new practice areas and devise strategies on how to break into these as well as offer training to associates to deliver in these areas
– Find out more about IT and how to leverage it for more efficient service delivery
– Undertake a skills audit in the firm in line with the firm’s vision
– Implement a performance management system
– Build brand for both staff and the firm
– Partner with senior advocates to offer mentorship for younger associates in the firms

Long-term action points (to be accomplished in the next 3-5 years)

– To be ranked as a leading resource in the region
– Be able to attract required resources to accomplish the firm’s goals
– Build on other professional services (such as energy, tax and finance) to leverage growth for the legal services
– Allow practitioners in the firm to be more specialized even as the firm engages in broader service areas

The final session of the retreat explored the Development of a Client Charter for East African law firms. What was anticipated was an informal guideline on what clients expect from lawyers and what lawyers undertake to deliver. This would then form a basis for discussion and development of universal guiding principles for EALS members’ client care.

A range of good ideas emerged which were recorded by the EALS and are being synthesised into the Client Charter document.

The session also posed the questions:

– What do you expect EALS and national bars to do to develop the legal profession?
– What are the future actions – how do we consolidate the gains made at the retreat?

Feedback from James Kamau (Chairperson of DLA Africa).

“The retreat identified that the new challenges facing the legal profession in East Africa are:-

– effective service to the increasingly globalised clients;
– the growing role for legal technology;
– new expectations from the workforce and ever-expanding client expectations around breadth and depth of advice.

Only a handful of law firms in East Africa are fully aware of and have the capacity to meet these challenges. These firms have access to new technology tools and are in networks / groups in various countries enabling them to attract and train their personnel, etc.

The majority of the firms are simply not equipped to meet these challenges as they lack properly trained personnel, appropriate scale and financial resources.

The question that was left unanswered is how the big firms and the law associations can help the smaller firms upscale and operate effectively. There were divergent views on this, including that the big firms offer training and collaboration opportunities (resulting in transfer of knowledge and skills).

I believe that the next steps should involve the bar associations providing a forum to discuss and come up with concrete solutions which will involve engagement with the big law firms, Government, donors and other relevant agencies.”

Feedback from Carol Kariuki (founder and CEO of Totally Sorted Limited, a legal practice management consultancy in the region).

“It was refreshing to see so many law firm leaders interested in running their firms professionally; accepting that the practice of law is a business and therefore must be run as one. The need for capacity building and management training is universal and I look forward to seeing this take on as similar a priority as technical training.”


‘The Rock’ restaurant – quite the most unique restaurant at which I have ever dined!