Legalpreneur’s Spotlight – Adeleke Alex-Adedipe, Founding Partner at Duale, Ovia & Alex-Adedipe

“Editor’s note – we are happy to introduce a series we have tagged “Legalpreneur’s Spotlight”. As part of this series, we will be interviewing successful young lawyers who took a bold step to leave practice and set up their own law firms (i.e. to become entrepreneurs in the legal industry). They will be sharing valuable lessons from their experience for those who might be considering a similar move. For the second part of the series, we interview Adeleke Alex-Adedipe who co-founded Duale, Ovia and Alex-Adedipe, a fast-growing law firm based in Lagos.

Why did you decide to venture out on your own?

Adeleke: My decision to set up a firm of my own had always been part of my career plan. The only thing I was not sure of was when the time would be right but I always knew the day was coming.

When and how did you know that you were ready?

Adeleke: I have come to realise that there is never a perfect moment for such a decision. I believe that the moment you set out is the perfect one. Not to say that this journey does not come with some preparation, that is, emotionally, financially, psychologically and mentally.

How did you prepare for your transition into the “legalpreneurship” life?

Adeleke: Like I mentioned earlier, I always knew the day would come and so every move and direction was in anticipation of this journey. However, I had an active 6 months of full preparation where all the stones where turned and I ensured I was on the right track for this journey.

Which was your preference – partnership or sole proprietorship?

Adeleke: I believe sole practitionership is gradually becoming extinct. I always knew partnership was the ideal model for me even when I was not sure who the partners would be. This again is part of the preparation process – knowing what model you are going to adopt. I remember when I had a conversation with my former Boss (I still call him my Boss by the way) and he asked me about my plans – his words were “Partnership or Solo?” I replied that I intended to go into a Partnership and he said it was great, particularly for the corporate commercial market especially in an age of diversification of practice.

How did you decide on areas of practice especially seeing that some are saturated and/ or dominated by the big players?

Adeleke: Selecting our areas of practice for our law firm was driven by our passion, our areas of expertise and the market. We considered the saturation in some areas of practice, but were not swayed by it – we follow the market need, our passion and the expertise we have built in these areas over time.

What was your funding experience?

Adeleke: Funding was provided by the Partners. It is important to start small but continue to grow and expand as the pocket accommodates all the needs arising.

How did you manage your initial costs?

Adeleke: As earlier stated, it was self-funded and we decided not to overshoot the runway.

Do you have a physical office? If so, what influenced your choice of office location?

Adeleke: I believe that as a lawyer in the Nigerian market, the office needs to be physical. Lawyers like doctors have personal relationships with their clients and a lot of clients ask to meet in person. It is important to have a befitting place to accommodate the client.

Based on this, we went for an office building in Lekki.

How did you put together a team?

Adeleke: The initial team consisted of the Partners and later we employed full-time Associates. I believe that since a lawyer deals with a lot of confidential instructions from clients, it is important that the team sees and appreciates this, therefore working with a freelance team may not be a great idea for a firm.

How did you win your first client?

Adeleke: I remember once marketing our services to an oil service company. We had a few meetings, but long story cut short, we did not get the brief. Days after that, we got an email from a financial institution asking us to do some work for them. This was our first official brief. The rest they say is history.

How did you market your firm especially seeing that the legal industry can seem so saturated? How did you establish your name/brand?

Adeleke: Our greatest marketing tool has been good work product. As a result of this, we have been able to leverage referrals from existing clients and this has been our greatest selling point.

We came up with the name of the firm by combining the surnames of all the partners and it sounded well and appeared to be good for us as a brand.

We are told that being an entrepreneur means having your own time- would you say your quality of life has improved since you went solo?

Adeleke: I would say it has been busier and I mean a lot busier but as an entrepreneur, you can always plan around your schedule and manage your time more efficiently.

At what point did you begin to feel that this was indeed a sustainable venture?

Adeleke: At the point at which I made the decision to go ahead and start my own firm. I also confirmed this at the start of the business and I have no regrets.

Tell us something that you were not prepared for

Adeleke: We were not prepared for the high cost of doing business in Nigeria. We started business at the peak of the economic downturn (some said it was bad timing but I do not think there is ever a “perfect” time to start). The cost at that point and even now is indeed ridiculous.

Tell us about your worst day in private practice.

Adeleke: Just like every other lawyer, I am sure I have had bad days. Unfortunately, none comes to mind right now. I guess it has become part of my nature to learn the lesson, forget and move on.

How do you balance practice administration/management with the practice of law?

Adeleke: To be a founding partner of a firm, I believe it is important you understand what practice administration entails as well as the practice of law. They are much intertwined and one cannot exist without the other. Fortunately, I have been able to understand the place of good practice administration and this was borne from my years working in a good and structured organization.

Also, I have always ensured that I stay abreast of new developments in practice administration as well as attending seminars/conferences and other creative opportunities to improve myself in this area.

What is the place of mentoring in setting up and running your own practice?

Adeleke: I believe in mentoring and I have continued to preach the need for young lawyers to have mentors. I have a mentor in this space and it is has been one of the best decisions for my entrepreneurship journey.

How has the journey been so far?

Adeleke: It has been an amazing journey so far and to God be the glory.

What is your biggest piece of advice for young lawyers looking to set up their own law firms?

Adeleke: My advice is to stay focused and have a mentor to guide you. Most importantly, do not be swayed by money. Someday your hard work will pay off.





legallyengagedLegalpreneur’s Spotlight – Adeleke Alex-Adedipe, Founding Partner at Duale, Ovia & Alex-Adedipe

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