Credits –

Nigeria is the next great
investment destination of Africa. Entrepreneurship will no doubt be the drive
of the economy of the continent. Entrepreneurs are known for surviving in
almost uncertain ventures and can forge on against all odds. But forging on with
caution in legal matters will be sound wisdom in commerce. With many Nigerian
entrepreneurs now new to building a business, the need for legal advice becomes
imperative and should therefore form part of any curriculum in entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurs need lawyers to grow
their business with less troubles from regulators and competitors. Information
technology has deluded so many into joining the band wagon of “wetin
lawyers dey do sef” (meaning “what do lawyers even do to make them
indispensable”). Some people are searching Google to get templates on
contracts and almost every other thing about their business. The consequences
of such approach can be very grave! I have listened to many clients, local and
foreign, brooding over regulatory sanctions imposed on their business, how sad
it is to them that they are getting sued by competitors for everything, how
much issues they have to deal with in terms of their copyright, product
liability etc. These are known attributes of a business which disregards the
use of legal advice.

Appreciating the need for legal
advice and how to put it to effective use forms part of the skills of an
entrepreneur. A foreign investor wisely paid about $20k for a legal fee to
review a two-page agreement. Apart from typographical correction and
rearrangement of the contents, the lawyer only added few words. The same
decision may be looked upon by other businessmen as being profligate. Four
years after, the business relationship went sour between the partners. Interestingly,
those few words added by the lawyers have now saved the investor an
embarrassing lawsuit of $2.5billion.

There are a host of start-ups
towing the “do-it-yourself” alternatives instead of seeking standard
legal advice. They are carried away with the impression that technology has
some sort of omnipotence to solve even the legal matters in business. That
cannot be. Whilst Google and other search engines can provide hints and
templates for contract drafting, it cannot do so in a way that guarantees less troubles
for the business. Legal service may be cheap or expensive but can be your only
surest way out of some soul-crushing mistakes that can mar your business

Focusing on legal issues early in
business is key and is especially helpful to entrepreneurs on diverse issues
such as founders agreements, tax management, intellectual property, employee
contracts and handbook and other regulatory issues. If you fail to hire a
lawyer at the beginning of a business, you may have to do so sooner or later, sometimes
at a greater cost. A business man once said “if you end up in a lawsuit,
then you are in the business of managing a lawsuit.” A word is enough for
a businessman!

Kayode Omosehin Esq.

Lagos, Nigeria
Editor’s note: this article was originally posted on on 1st March, 2016.