Obituary: Kojo Bentsi-Enchill – :: Ghana Legislation Hub

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Samuel Alesu-Dordzi

Lawyer, writer and pioneer of Ghanaian corporate practice, Kojo Bentsi-Enchill, died on February 13, 2021 at the age of 71.

He’s crazy. “The product is where it is because my partner is crazy. Any healthy person would have given up years ago, “remarked Ace Anan Ankomah, the current Senior Partner of Bentsi-Enchill, Letsa and Ankomah (BELA), the firm’s founding partner, in a 2003 interview about his digitization of legal reports and magazines and other legal materials in Ghana. While Kojo Bentsi-Enchill’s digitization efforts will not achieve the same popularity as his law firm’s efforts, the success of the BELA project appears to be largely due to his tenacity and crazy spirit.

The progress in the legal market in Ghana has largely been reviewed. In today’s landscape, however, it is easy to assume that things have always been the same: competitive law firms doing very complex transactions, heavy electronic databases, very efficient software for law firm management, etc. But no. It took a lot more than a chance to get to this point.

In the early years of legal practice in Ghana, litigation was the mainstay of locally trained lawyers. Criminal law practice, land disputes and disputes over chiefs were the focus of many local lawyers. On the other hand, mostly foreigners or lawyers trained abroad played in the corporate practice circles. Leading law firms in the Gold Coast Colony included Giles Hunt (now Kudjawu & Co) and JJ Peele & Co (which still have an office in Kumasi).

Robin Luckham examined the nature of the legal practice in Ghana as early as 1976 in his article “The economic basis of the legal practice in Ghana”. “Most of the practicing members of the Ghana Bar Association can be considered small legal entrepreneurs. More than three quarters (78%) practice in small chambers of no more than three lawyers. 30 percent all alone and 48 percent in the same place as just one or two other lawyers. Sharing chambers with other lawyers doesn’t mean they necessarily share clients, work, or money, ”he noted. That story hasn’t changed. But things are no longer the same as they used to be.

In 1963 Lynes and Quarshie-Idun & Co were arguably the largest and leading law firm in Ghana. The firm was the result of the merger of Lynes and Cridland’s expatriate firm with the local law firm ENP Sowah & Co. in 1963. As Luckham reports, “Cridland traveled to the UK not long before the merger was complete and Sowah was promoted to Bench hands over to his junior partner J Quarshie-Idun. “

This is how Lynes and Quarshie-Idun & Co. came about.John Lynes – an Australian national – would eventually be evicted from Ghana for his role in cases that challenged the unconstitutional behavior of the military regime, including the republic’s famous prison director (ex parte Salifa). Most of Lynes and Quarshie-Idun’s customers were foreign firms, banks, and insurance companies.

Transaction law skills were hardly available. One lawyer reportedly noted: “There are no more than six lawyers in Ghana who can conclude a simple lease that prevents me from taking an express train.”

In this context, Kojo Bentsi-Enchill’s legacy stands out in the legal field. It paved the way and made it nearly impossible to reiterate the remark that “there are no more than six lawyers in Ghana who can get a simple lease that prevents me from driving an express train”.

Kojo was born in 1948 to a former Supreme Court judge and attended high school in England. He later returned to Ghana to study political science and later law at the law faculty of the University of Ghana (now the University of Ghana School of Law). After completing his studies in Ghana and his appointment to the Ghanaian Bar Association in 1975, Kojo went to the University of Cambridge for a postgraduate course in the law of mining concessions. He later joined the Shearman and Sterling law firm as an overseas associate and served briefly with the Ford Foundation as an Assistant Program Officer. In 1988 he returned to Ghana and, together with his colleague at the Law Faculty, Divine Letsa, formed the gold standard in legal practice in Ghana: Bentsi-Entsill, Letsa Ankomah (BELA). The firm is currently the largest employer of lawyers in Ghana and specializes in a wide variety of fields including litigation, arbitration, energy and infrastructure. It’s not an easy task. Ghana’s experiment with great law has come a long way – beginning in 1960 with Kwame Nkrumah’s failed Law Chambers & Co as a solution to the numerous small business practices that prevailed in the first years after independence.

Kojo left the company when his image and reputation were valued locally and internationally.

In a 2017 interview with JoyFM[1], the company’s current Senior Partner, gave an insight into Kojo’s leadership skills. He remembered the time when Kojo was behind on filing a division report. The rule in the company was: no report, no salary. Kojo had not submitted his report for two months. This meant that he hadn’t received his salary in two months. The apologetic Ace entered his office and tried to apologize for not receiving his salary. “I thought you were going to berate me for not filing my report,” he recalls when Kojo told him. This insight into the man showed that he was a man of the process and the institution. Others, who know him personally and up close, have spoken about his pursuit of very high standards and his insistence on getting things done – no matter what.

In a statement, the company stated, “Kojo’s fearless spirit, strict work ethic, and unwavering integrity will forever be the foundation of the company. It is difficult to overestimate Kojo’s impact on the development of legal practice in Ghana and the firm’s continued success. “

Kojo Bentsi-Enchill will be remembered as one of the most outstanding and towering personalities ever to appear on the Ghanaian list of attorneys – not only because he was an exceptional lawyer, but also because he built something that would open doors for so many People opened up and changed the face of Ghanaian legal practice in many ways.

[1] Executive Lounge (with Nhyira Addo)