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SA law firms moving into Africa

Publish date: 16 April 2018
Issue Number: 769
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: Practice

SA’s young legal elite are joining firms that allow them to work on large projects in other African countries as they look to enhance their profiles and gain work experience. Law students typically considered the likes of Norton Rose Fulbright, ENS Africa, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, Webber Wentzel and Bowmans, but in the past few years, numerous small specialised firms have entered the country, meaning more firms have to offer better incentives to compete for talent. Alistair Anderson, in an examination of trends in Business Day, notes DLA Piper has spent more than a decade building relationships with African law firms ‘because it knows legal talent is hungry for African work’. The firm now has full representation in 19 countries across Africa. Director Peter Bradshaw believes while academic performance is key when selecting staff, significant resources need to be spent in upskilling young lawyers so the product they deliver does not compromise standards. ENS Africa has representation in six African countries other than SA. The firm's Lebitso Mokgatle claims that firms that do not offer opportunities on the continent may lose strong candidate attorneys to other firms. She notes that young attorneys used to have only ‘about five large commercial law firms to choose from’, there are now many options. Anderson points out that while the opportunity to work on African matters and be seconded to other countries on the continent is attractive, young lawyers need support in the form of skilled partners and up-to-date resources. He quotes Norton Rose Fulbright’s Greg Nott as saying: ‘Africa is enormous and countries often operate with very different legal frameworks. The kind of work we do on the continent often includes large infrastructure and mining projects. Some young associates who may not have as many responsibilities as older attorneys could be more keen to do extensive work in Africa and stay in countries there for sustained periods. They then need access to colleagues back in SA, to legal databases and to technology.’

Full analysis in Business Day