Virtual law firm internships will become a new normal?
Law firms have always been happy to open their doors to legal interns who wish to undertake assignment-based legal internships where they are exposed to hands-on legal work in a real law firm environment. This enables these legal interns to have some much needed hands-on experience before they enter the labour market after their studies.
Leading commercial law firms have taken legal internships a step further, in line with ongoing recommendations about the future of work. Many law firms across various jurisdictions of the world created and are still creating virtual learning programmes and virtual law firm internships for interested student participants who wish to utilize technology to tap into the global opportunities afforded by its use.
Enter Primus Grace LP, A Full service commercial law firm in Lagos, Nigeria
Primus Grace LP is a full service commercial law firm with its head office in Ikoyi, Lagos and branch offices in Abuja and Calabar. The firm majorly advises companies, business entities and blue chips on diverse areas of law including energy law and Natural Resources, Regulatory compliance, Corporate & Commercial law and other related areas of law, including general Legal practice and advisory. The firm is headed by managing partner Joseph Onele.
Primus Grace LP Virtual Internship in International Commercial Arbitration
Primus Grace LP is one of the few innovative full service law firms in Nigeria that have taken legal internship placements to another level: the Cloud. In 2020, Primus Grace LP announced through its website and LinkedIn pages that it was opening its doors for applications from suitably qualified candidates for the firm’s virtual internship on international (commercial) arbitration. Out of the over 500 applicants comprising of lawyers and law students from within and outside Nigeria who applied for the firm’s international arbitration virtual internship seats, the firm whittled down its application list to a select shortlist of candidates, out of which thirteen candidates were finally chosen for the virtual internship program on international commercial arbitration. Participants got the chance to work with each other in teams and individually in a live commercial arbitration matter currently handled by the firm’s Dispute Resolution team.
“Indeed it is a privilege to have been selected as a participant in Primus Grace’s virtual internship program,” says Joy Mgbado, ACIArb, virtual legal intern, Primus Grace LP. “Participants are given tasks and expected to conduct research and analysis on legal issues arising from a high profile international arbitration matter, among others.”
Nigerian law firms have always been brick-and-mortar offices based, and this includes even the firms that describe themselves as “techno-centric”. Law firms across Nigeria often open internship slots for students and law graduates, but these internship programs are always restricted to the physical offices of these firms in Nigeria’s commercial cities.
Of course, with Nigerian powerhouse law firms usually situate in Lagos (head offices), Abuja (2nd major offices) and Port Harcourt (the usual third branch office), prospective interns have to be physically present in these cities and within close proximity to the firms’ office locations before they can partake of internship programs and trainings. Students who may wish to have a shot at taking internships at these top and mid-tier commercial law firms but who don’t reside in Lagos, Abuja or Port Harcourt and/or can’t find accommodations close enough to these firms’ offices are usually left out.
In a world increasingly powered by tech wherein tech adoption and usage is the “new normal” and where interconnectivity irrespective of physical location is the ultimate goal, legal interns stand strong chances of interning with top-tier law firms across the African continent without having to leave their locations.
Ms. Mgbado was helpful to point out that Primus Grace LP adequately leveraged tech for the firm’s virtual internship program for its legal interns. “The firm adopts email, Zoom and WhatsApp for information dissemination and interaction among Team members. Zoom is adopted for scheduled periodic meetings when fixed by the firm for conferencing/live interactions on specific pre-fixed agenda.”
Rita Anwiri Chindah ACIArb, another participant at the Firm’s virtual internship program, concurs. “Tech made my communications with co-interns and the lawyers easier even without having to meet physically.”
Given that communications has been made easier with platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp, Skype and collaboration and document/file sharing is seamless with various LegalTech, isn’t it time for Nigerian (top and mid-tier) law firms and leading law firms across Africa to tap into the truly global opportunities offered by communication tech to give their two cents to the development of upcoming legal talent across the continent. At least by easing into virtual internships, leading law firms can give equal opportunity to promising legal talent irrespective of their locations. A law student in Onitsha (Eastern Nigeria) can get an opportunity to access the same legal (internship) training his counterpart residing at Ikoyi or Johannesburg ordinarily would in top-tier law firms.
This will surely go a long way in bridging the training gap that currently exists because of the disparity in opportunities available to legal interns because of their locations.
In this regard, by tapping into virtual law, Primus Grace LP has helped to break the glass ceiling concerning the future of law practice in Nigeria and for Africa as a whole. Other law firms can take a leaf out of this. I actually expect nothing less at this point.
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