Hyacinthe Fansi, a Partner at Ngassam, Fansi & Mouafo Avocats Associés (NFM), a law firm based in Douala, Cameroon shares details about his time with ILFA host firm Ashurst LLP in 2017 and his professional life in general.
Tell us about your pre-ILFA profile and motivations for applying to the programme
Before ILFA I was and still am a Partner at Ngassam, Fansi & Mouafo Avocats Associés (NFM), a law firm based in Douala, Cameroon. I advise on a wide range of corporate and commercial transactions across practice areas and sectors including intellectual property, energy, infrastructure and insurance.
Prior to joining NFM, I started my career at Virgile Ngassam Njiké Law Chamber as a Trainee and then Associate.
I have a Bachelor of Science degree in law from the University of Buea, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Business Law from the University of Douala. In 2008 I was called to the bar as a trainee advocate and then in 2011 as an advocate.
I am a member of the Cameroon bar association, the Ius Laboris (a network of lawyers specialising in employment law) and the Association des amis pour le droit continental (a network of continental lawyers).
What were the key highlights of the ILFA secondment experience
The key highlight of the programme for me, was how it gives young lawyers from developing countries the opportunity to work with and learn from experienced lawyers actively involved in complex legal issues and dispute settlement proceedings.
As a secondee I learned about some of the drivers for and constraints faced by international law firms and how this affects the business. I gained first-hand experience of working in a complex legal environment, as well as a deeper understanding of the challenges within the legal sector. The experience enabled me to broaden and deepen my network.
What were the greatest challenges during the ILFA secondment
The greatest challenge was making the transition from my Cameroonian context, to the Ashurst and London city firm working environment – the contrast between the two was tremendous. Obtaining a security pass, setting up passwords, learning how the various IT systems worked, opening a UK bank account – all of this was new to me.
In addition, just being in the UK for the first time, there was some initial uncertainty and insecurity.
The cold weather upon arrival was a rude shock to the system too. So much was unfamiliar it was like entering another world – not just in terms of the working environment but also adjusting to British culture as a whole.
What is your story since the ILFA programme
The ILFA experience opened up an entirely new world of opportunities – through it, I met the partner in charge of the Africa Practice of a London based firm. And shortly after my return an opportunity arose in relation to an aviation deal in Cameroon involving one of their clients. My firm was subsequently referred and retained for the assignment.
Through the ILFA programme I learned new skills and benefitted from new experiences and opportunities. I saw a different side to the profession by trying something entirely out of my normal work environment and comfort zone. This opened up new potential pathways for my career and is great for my CV.
My firm still has much to learn in terms of marketing and business development. We need to develop a deeper and broader understanding of our clients’ businesses and sectors, much like accountants do. This is equally vital for a successful future and to attract and retain the best talent.
It’s important to me that I continue to learn new things, get better at what I know and progress in my career. Working with highly experienced professionals is also crucial – I feel I’m at my best when working with people who challenge me. The ILFA programme was appealing because of the complex nature of the deals, as well as the diverse responsibilities which enabled me to broaden my skill set.
Name one area of professional development that you would most value assistance with at this stage in your career?
Continued education. Whether this is in the form of enrolment in formal degree programmes, courses and workshops, or whether via accreditations, certificates or other avenues.
What advice would you give your younger self?
The worst thing you can do when you make a mistake is make excuses or blame other people. Accept complete responsibility for your mistakes, and going forward, figure out how to prevent it from happening again.
What are the main issues facing you as a lawyer today?
Time, more specifically, the balance between professional and private life. Another issue is globalisation and competition. We live in such a fiercely competitive world, where as lawyers we are competing against our fellow colleagues on the one hand and other legal service providers on the other.
Making use of innovation and new technologies with which to better serve clients is another important issue, as well as being more business-minded and entrepreneurial.
Who are your key inspirations?
- Virgile Ngassam, founder and managing partner of my firm, Ngassam Fansi & Mouafo Avocats Associés (NFM).
- Yann Alix, partner and my key contact at Ashurst LLP during the ILFA secondment.
- Clement Fondufe, partner in the London office of Latham & Watkins LLP.
- Patrick Larrivé, managing partner of Dentons in Morocco.
What activities do you enjoy outside of work?
I enjoy sports, music, attending lectures and doing community work.
I am so very grateful for the support and encouragement received from Ashurst. Thank you ILFA, you make a difference in the African legal market every day.