Real estate and construction lawyer Nicole Gichuhi recently spoke to Craig Sisterson about the impact of COVID-19 on the real estate industry, the use of technology in client service, and joining the ALN Kenya partnership.
“To deliver the best service, lawyers need to look at matters from the client’s perspective, not their own, especially since you’ll be judged based on your client’s experience,” commented Nicole Gichuhi who became a partner in ALN Kenya’s Real Estate & Construction practice in January.
“One of our key focus areas, and with ALN Kenya being a client-centred firm, is to elevate client experience because while we’re a top-tier firm with many heavyweights in the legal industry, there are other lawyers in the market,” she said. “To be able to differentiate ourselves from the rest, we aim to provide service to the client in a way that the client really appreciates, rather than what we as lawyers think to be fit for the clients.” – Nicole Gichuhi, Partner, ALN Kenya
One of the ways Gichuhi intends to deliver success to clients is by harnessing legal technologies that allow the automation of standard matters. ALN Kenya is a strong proponent of legal tech, winning Best Use of Technology at last year’s African Legal Awards.
“With technology taking care of routine work, lawyers can focus more energy on working on complex matters where the client really needs the support,” noted Gichuhi. She says in her first year as a partner she is really going to be focusing on streamlining ALN Kenya’s automation to free up time to best serve clients’ needs.
Rapidly accelerating technologies have impacted Gichuhi’s practice in various ways, especially since the pandemic began. This is not just in terms of how legal work can be completed and delivered, but also has a much broader impact on the real estate market itself.
“There was a mix of positive effects and negative effects of the pandemic,” she said, pointing to the downturn in residential and especially commercial real estate, as individuals and companies adopted remote working during lockdowns, then continued with hybrid models.
“Some companies no longer required office space, while others wanted to scale it down as they were practising hybrid working, partly working from home and the office. Even our international clients have now moved into remote working or, where they acquire office space, they’re doing shared working or co-working spaces, not taking it exclusively.”- Nicole Gichuhi, Partner, ALN Kenya
The flipside was an increased need for industrial space, as companies needed local warehouses for increased online sales, as well as an increasing demand for space to house data centres in Kenya and the wider region due to the rapid growth in the digital economy.
Gichuhi, who says she’ll bring her determination, integrity and passion to her new role, plans to expand ALN Kenya’s offerings to include more cross-border and multi-jurisdictional advisory in the real estate and construction space. “I can’t wait to see us open up to the rest of Africa and, hopefully in a couple of years’ time, maybe even to the rest of the world.”
This article was first published by Africa Legal.