Interview: Legal Forms does not kill the career of Nigerian lawyers – Sadiq Okocha
It may come as a surprise that someone who studied Petroleum Engineering at the University of Texas, Sadiq Sanni Azubuike Okocha, has found his calling in legal automated services, with his company, Legal Forms, an online startup, which helps Nigerians register their companies with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) without inconveniencing them or their schedule.
He went into business to provide a solution to the challenges associated with registering businesses in Nigeria. According to him, veering into the business of law helped him take a step back from the whole situation and regard it from a layman’s point of view. “I would say I knew as much about CAC as the next person on the street but due to my stake at Legal Forms, I am pretty familiar with the happenings in the agency,” he said.
The Delta state native, who spoke at length with Ventures Africa, had a brief stint in the Oil and Gas industry before venturing into Legal Forms in September, 2015. He returned to the country just a few months ago and has already surveyed the country’s business environment and wants to address the challenges it faces.
Ventures Africa (VA): When did you start Legal Forms and what is the story behind its formation?
Sadiq Okocha (SO): We started working on the idea in September 2015. Legal Forms basically helps Nigerians register their businesses conveniently. For instance, the CAC will have people running around office to office, seeking validation from either the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) or the Federal High Court. Many nine-to-fivers, do not have the time for all that running around – that’s where we come in. We will do all the groundwork, let you know when it is ready and deliver the document to your doorstep, anywhere you are. What a lot of people end up doing is they turn to middle men who most of the time turn out to be lawyers. For something that is supposedly N30,000 in the CAC, lawyers will charge as much as N100,000.
VA: As an online business owner, you do know that the older generation, who need to register businesses, may not be familiar with online activities, do you have any plan for them?
SO: For now we are focused on the younger generation, it may take a while to reach the older ones because they are not too conversant with the internet.
VA: Who are your customers in terms of reach?
SO: Although we are Lagos based, if customers from any part of Nigeria decide to buy our service, we can cater to their needs. There are so many young Nigerians based abroad who are looking to come back to their country, we can even reach them as well, register their companies for them, so they are ready to hit the ground running and begin their businesses as soon as they return to the country.
VA: Have you had any criticism from lawyers who feel like you are taking potential business from them?
SO: No criticism so far, but even the lawyers who may be offended that we are taking their spotlight, can make use of our service. It is a matter of convenience. If a lawyer has a potential client he or she needs to register at CAC, they can make use of Legal Forms, using PDF as opposed to handwriting and avoid errors. I believe that there is enough profit to go around for everyone in this regard. Those who may not be comfortable registering through us, can decide to make use of lawyers as middlemen. Our presence in the market is just providing people with more options, so they can pick whatever they are comfortable with. Although the CAC registration is the cheapest but the advantage we have over them and lawyers is convenience, time and know-how.
VA: You mentioned earlier that you deliver documents to the clients’ doorstep. That means you must charge a lot for your service…
SO: We charge about N50,000 which is half of what lawyers will charge on a regular day. It depends really on the amount of share capital. N1 million is the minimum amount of share capital and for that we charge N50,000. The share capital can go up to N10 million and we will charge the client accordingly but most people go for the former, which is N1 million share capital, so our charge is basically N50,000. We even have the ‘do it yourself’ (DIY) option, which is totally free.
VA: How does the DIY option work?
SO: On the website, there are several questionnaires available on the database, the client can proceed to fill out the requirements for the registration – name of the company, objectives etc. after that, the CAC forms are made available to the client, then they can take them to the CAC and it is completely free. But if the client wants us to file the document for them, we will charge for that.
VA: When is Legal Forms’ official launch and how viable do you think this business is?
SO: We are gearing up for the launch of the business now, so as to open it up more to a wider audience, although no specific date has been set, within the next month though, we should have an official launch. I believe it’s going to be a successful business because it is a viable market and there are records to prove it. For instance, in 2012 alone, there were over 81,144 registered businesses in Nigeria that is really amazing considering how hard it is to register a business in this country.
In New Zealand for example, registering a business takes a day or two online. Just to conduct a name search for an available business name, can take up to a whole week. Now that we have Legal Forms, those numbers will definitely go up. What we aim for at Legal Forms is to be able to service at least 10 percent of the Nigerian population, who are looking to register their businesses with the CAC. Once we have conquered the business registration domain, we can now provide other legal automated services like Trademark, Copyrighting and NAFDAC registration.
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