Business in Africa is a lot about networks and friendships, so lawyers whose clients want to expand their business across borders should endeavour to work with like-minded firms which share their core values, said Kiptinness, KO Associates’ Managing Partner.
For the Nairobi firm, which won Specialist Law Firm of the Year at the 2020 African Legal Awards and which is part of Citadel Law Africa, one key value is “advancing the public good”.
“The KO way of doing things is represented by three strands encapsulating our core values,” Kiptinness explained. “The first and most important is to represent our clients to the best of our ability. The second is something that we do not believe many firms focus on – advancing the public good. The third and final one is to ensure we constantly improve as practitioners.”
Kiptinness notes that while it’s often said lawyers exist for big clients or big bucks, keeping sight of the public good is vital, no matter who your clients are.
“We try, whether we’re representing an indigent or a multinational corporation – and we have a huge number of both across the spectrum – to ensure that we’re advancing the public good,” he added. “If we are representing a multinational corporation we are not going to be involved in corrupt or underhand dealings, or seek to compromise other parties or the judiciary.”
When an increasing number of KO Associates’ clients began looking to expand throughout East Africa – into Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and even Congo – the firm realised it needed to identify not just the most willing firms in those jurisdictions, but also those who shared their core values and who they could work well with on a regular basis.
“One of the things our clients know us for is our responsiveness and turnaround time,” Kiptinness commented. “So in the region you will get a firm which is, for all intents and purposes, professional and capable, but whose turnaround time becomes a problem.”
The answer became Citadel Law Africa, a network of independent firms who share core values and standards, and who are looking to provide seamless, consistent service across the wider region.
What began as a loose network is now becoming more of a mutual symbiosis, as some member firms who’ve worked together for quite a while are in the course of migrating towards a “common platform, common client approach, and common branding”, said Kiptinness.
The ethos benefits clients and staff alike. KO Associates sends partners and team members to assist local teams in other countries on shared projects, and in specific instances will host lawyers from other member firms to help build further capacity in areas of strength such as technology law. “We bring them in and they work with us on local projects and matters, so when a brief/project is available in that country, we already have individuals who understand that particular sector and can team up to work on the brief/project.”
It comes down to helping assure clients that they will get high-level local expertise when they need, wherever they are operating across Africa.
“We make sure our clients get a local feel for the market they’re getting into so that it’s not as if you have no idea who to talk to or where to start,” Kiptinness explained. “We undertake to make sure we get the right networks, to give the feel that you can go wherever in the continent you desire, and we’ll be with you every step of the way.”
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