Since 2011, Nairobi-based KO Associates LLP has made waves across the Kenyan legal market and beyond. Their innovative approach combined with a focused and diverse client-centric team has proven a winning formula.
Stephen Kiptinness, senior partner at KO, says the secret to their success is that “though we are a reasonably medium sized firm, we try to bring a small firm feel to what we do. We truly personalise our service”.
Their service is not only personal, but also deserving of the term ‘specialist.’ KO’s definition of specialist is unique. Kiptinness defines this as, “understanding our craft in a way that reveals that we are not only passionate but understand the nuances of the specific sectors of technology, infrastructure and transportation”.
These nuances require thinking beyond their offices and immediate staff to consulting their entire network, including other agencies, academics and even their competition to help understand client enquiries. This is wholly motivated by asking the question, ‘how do we bring in all the different skills that we have?’.
KO Associates LLP specialises in four broad practice areas: corporate & finance, technology, project development (in energy and infrastructure) and dispute resolution. Their specialist knowledge is driven by the high calibre of senior lawyers and strong ties within Kenya infrastructure and technology sectors that are essential to providing a seamless way forward when completing a transaction.
It’s a common claim by law firms that they are ‘different’ from their competition, but KO truly embodies an innovative approach. It focuses on doing a few things exceptionally well. Special attention is paid to younger, engaged talent who are brought into the firm’s culture with a dual purpose – that of keeping KO’s perspective fresh and to train future senior leaders for the firm. Kiptinness says, “we try to find people who are passionate and aim to remove the hierarchy and formality of law, operating a literal open-door policy for all staff.”
With a nomination in 2019 for the African Legal Awards and a win in 2020, the natural question for KO is – what happens in 2021 and beyond?
The firm’s future strategy is two-fold: providing client excellence with a deeper focus on client needs and developing high grade talent for its work and ethos.
“One of the crucial things we see with our clients is their need for truly knowledgeable counsel who understand their sectors inside out and are also flexible enough to support them in their other business concerns whether it is regulatory compliance, mergers and acquisition, litigation or even ESG compliance. In that regard our client engagement strategy requires that we are more closely embedded with our client teams through joint programs, research & innovation and world class Client relationship management,” explains Kiptinness.
The second pillar of developing high grade legal talent means looking beyond what can clearly be seen about a candidate from paperwork and records, but towards the more nuanced aspects of what makes a good lawyer. These candidates are truly the future of the firm, with Kiptinness noting “we are hoping to grow the top level of the firm” while maintaining an ‘enthusiastic culture’ that attracts the right people.
KO will continue to maintain its outstanding client service, committed to adapting this as they grow. As the firm steadily evolves from mid-size to large, they are determined to provide the flexibility that their clients expect and demand from them. Kiptinness notes this is a fine balance to strike as “being large is sometimes equal to being unwieldy”. With 2021 around the corner, the Kenyan and East African legal and business communities will be eagerly following KO’s trailblazing future.
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