Ayuli Jemide on Nigeria | Detail Commercial Solicitors

World Finance interviews Ayuli Jemide, Lead Partner at Detail Commercial Solicitors, on regulatory changes in Nigeria and the development of public-private partnerships

January 18, 2013

PPPs are an emerging practice area in Nigeria, with governments at both the federal and state level working hard to ensure the environment is more robust. Recognised for its innovative approach, Detail Commercial Solicitors has taken a pioneering role in the market. Lead Partner Ayuli Jemide describes the rewards in seeing a tangible outcome of PPP projects, and the recent regulatory developments in the country.

World Finance: Why is the World Finance Legal Award for Best PPP Firm in Nigeria 2013 significant to Detail?

Ayuli Jemide: I think that pioneers need to be rewarded, and Detail has been a pioneer on two fronts.

One, that as a firm we have broken the traditional way of practising law in Nigeria. All the other firms are full-service firms, and we decided to stay as a corporate and commercial boutique, which means we don’t go to court at all, we just stay with the clients on the business side, and focus on being pro-active.

On the second front, we’ve tried to push emerging practice areas. And before the other law firms know it, there’s a new practice area, and Detail is the pioneer of it. And PPPs is one of those areas that we’ve really brought out into the market.

World Finance: What are Detail’s areas of focus, and what sets it apart from other legal service providers?

Ayuli Jemide: About five or six things we focus on: PPPs, finance, real estate, capital markets, power, and corporate and commercial. What sets us apart? I think it’s three things.

It’s innovation: we’re a firm that is known to be innovative, and Chambers and Partners in their last research actually mentioned that Detail is an innovative law firm.

Number two is focus. We realised as a firm that we can’t be everything to everybody, so we picked our areas, we pick our clients, and we stay focused at all times.

The third thing is quality service. In a book about Marvin Bower, the gentleman who built McKinsey to be a top management consulting firm today, he was quoted as saying, “If you focus on making money, you will lose the client. But if you focus on serving the client, you will make money and you will keep the client.” And that’s what Detail really stands for.

“Infrastructure projects are tangible. f I’m working on a railway project and I’m up all night, I hear the trains in my head. And it keeps me going”

World Finance: Why did Detail decide to focus on PPPs within Nigeria?

Ayuli Jemide: First and foremost it was a marketing strategy. We wanted to develop an emerging practice because we tried to develop areas where we’re not competing with other people. So we’re competing with them in their traditional areas, and they were developing areas where we’re not competing with them, and we’re more or less the only players on that field.

But when we got into it, we found out that it was actually rewarding. Because infrastructure projects are tangible. You can see what happens at the end of the day. So if I’m working on a railway project and I’m up all night, I hear the trains in my head. And it keeps me going.

World Finance: Have there been any recent regulatory amendments regarding PPP laws?

Ayuli Jemide: PPP in Nigeria is actually emerging, and the governments put at the federal and state level have been very bullish with making sure that the legal and regulatory environment is more robust.

At the federal level they’ve passed an act that sets up the regulatory commission, and that commission has come up with a lot of guidelines, and they’re in the process of drafting regulations. There’s also the infrastructure finance policy that is currently being drafted, and my firm happens to be part of the consortium drafting that policy.

At the state level, many states have passed PPP laws and have passed procurement laws to support PPP procurement. They’ve also set up PPP units, headed by very intelligent people, who understand project finance and have been trained in PPPs. So there’s a lot going on.

“If we think we would suffer a reputational risk from taking on a particular client, it’s not relevant how much they’d pay us. We’ll turn them down”

World Finance: Tell us: as lead partner of Detail, what drives you, and what defines your actual practice?

Ayuli Jemide: I think it’s three things. First and foremost, the need to build an institution that’s transparent, that’s process-driven, and that will leave a legacy.

The other thing is organic growth. At the end of the day, a law practice is about people, so we’re very strong on how you grow your people, how you train them, how you help them to create their own individual spheres of influence. How you bring them in, and let them see the bigger picture, and where they can actually get to.

The third thing is reputation. We’re very strong about reputation. We don’t take on every client. If we think we would suffer a reputational risk from taking on a particular client, it’s not relevant how much they’d pay us. We’ll turn them down.

World Finance: And finally, where do you see Detail in the near future?

Ayuli Jemide: I think to answer that question, let’s start with where we are now. Detail is probably in the top ten of firms in Nigeria, and I can say this based on the rankings and the research from Chambers and Partners, and IFLR. So what we want to do is just keep our focus, keep doing what we’re doing right, and hope to be at the top – the number one corporate and commercial law firm – in another five years.

World Finance: Ayuli, thank you very much for your time.

Ayuli Jemide: Thank you so much Eleni. It was my pleasure.