The Legal 500

South Africa

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Legal market overview

South Africa’s legal market continues to change, not least because of the growing interest from international law firms. Herbert Smith Freehills South Africa LLP launched a Johannesburg office at the end of 2015 and recruited leading projects lawyer Brigitte Baillie and eminent mining specialist Peter Leon from Webber Wentzel.

Chadbourne & Parke was another new arrival in 2015, hiring projects partner Lido Fontana from Bowman Gilfillan, to lead the Johannesburg office.

Clyde & Co, which entered South Africa in 2014, continued its hiring spree in 2015: it recruited insurance specialists Tony Hardie and Amelia Costa from Norton Rose Fulbright South Africa Inc, contentious construction and infrastructure experts Robert Scott and Alon Meyerov from ENSafrica, and medical malpractice specialist Athol Gordon from Bowman Gilfillan.

Allen & Overy (South Africa) LLP further developed its project finance practice with the hire of Jason van der Poel from Webber Wentzel.

Another landmark development was Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr breaking off its association with DLA Piper.

Baker & McKenzie Johannesburg also continued its expansion strategy by hiring experienced projects partner Kieran Whyte and employment specialist Johan Botes from Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr. The international firm has also bolstered its resources by transferring a number of senior figures from the London office including Frances Okosi and Chris Hogan.

Aside from the aggressive recruitment strategies of the international firms in South Africa, there remains a great deal of unrest in the market and frequent lateral moves between top firms.

Webber Wentzel has undergone a great deal of change, with various arrivals and departures: the firm lost important names to international firms, as well as seasoned private equity specialist John Bellew to Bowman Gilfillan, and tax partners Mark Linington and Michael Honiball to Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr and Werksmans Attorneys, respectively; it hired Muhammad Sader and Shaun Browne from Baker & McKenzie Johannesburg, Mike Mclaren from Bowman Gilfillan and Tahera Cassim from Prinsloo, Tindle & Andropoulos Inc to enhance its finance practice. It also hired eminent corporate and M&A lawyer Gareth Driver from Werksmans Attorneys. Such fluidity would be unheard of in many other jurisdictions, but has become a feature of the South African market in recent years.

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