Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr and 18 of the firm's lawyers have been ranked by their peers and clients as leaders in their respective fields in the 2008 edition of the Chambers Global Guide. Chambers' rankings are based on extensive research into the strengths and reputations of lawyers conducted by Chambers and Partners, publishers of the renowned guides to the legal profession. The Chambers Global Guide is viewed by many as the definitive source of information for companies seeking lawyers to advise them.
Band 1: BANKING & FINANCE
The Firm: Comments about the Cliffe Dekker legacy firm include: Clients sing the praises of this "exceptional" banking and finance team of 11 partners: "They are very sensitive to a company's business requirements, and always structure a deal in accordance with them." As well as offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town, the firm is a member of DLA Piper Group, which sources say "definitely gives the firm an edge." Notable expertise includes syndicated loan agreements, structured and acquisition finance, property and project finance and BEE transactions.
Comments about the Hofmeyr legacy firm include: 'This firm has a strong presence in Johannesburg and Cape Town, handling general financing, restructuring, infrastructure finance and capital markets work. Clients appreciate the level of dedication they receive from these “excellent” banking and finance lawyers: “They give all their attention to the deal and the client.” Interviewees also commended the team’s commercial approach to deals.'
The Lawyers: The "remarkable" Joz Coetzer impresses sources with his technical knowledge and business acumen: "He places weight on developing strong client relationships and so is finely tuned to the needs and desires of the client."
Hans Evenhuis attracts praise for his depth of knowledge, strong negotiating skills and commerciality: "He looks for solutions rather than just giving you the law verbatim."
'Johan Latsky's experience continues to raise his profile. Interviewees value his “broad knowledge, competence and commercial outlook.” His proficiency in tax matters is also noted."
Clients identify the "brilliant" Craig Whitley as "diligent, commercial and practical." He was promoted to partner in 2006 and specialises in financing structures, securities and banking regulatory work.
Deon Wilken is well regarded for his "high level of skill, quick turnaround time and commercial approach." He handles banking law, financial markets and securities law.
Clients/Work Highlights: The firm advised the lender in a $15 million acquisition financing of a West African gold mine; and acted for the lender providing the R1,63 billion financing of an equity stake by a BEE shareholder in Mototolo Platinum Group Metals, a joint venture between Xstrata and Anglo American. Other clients include South African Airways; Western Platinum; Barclays Bank; SABMiller and Nedbank. The legacy Hofmeyr firm advised Industrial Development Corporation on a mezzanine vendor financing of the company’s share in Kumba Resources. This restructuring formed the two separate Johannesburg-listed companies Exxaro Resources and Kumba Iron Ore. The group also acted for two international banks on the financing for the acquisition of Investcom, undertaken by MTN Group. Other clients include V&A Waterfront, PSG, Abante Capital and Medi-Clinic.
Individual rankings: Joz Coetzer - Band 1; Hans Evenhuis; Johan Latsky's - Band 3; Craig Whitley - Up & Coming; Deon Wilken - Up & Coming
Band 1: CORPORATE / M&A
The Firm: This "top-quality" corporate team is popular with clients because it has the "personal touch - these lawyers are very pleasant to work with." The 17-strong team offers consistently good advice and solid support on complex deals. "The lawyers' advice is succinct and their clients' interests are always of paramount importance," say satisfied customers. The firm has a strong commitment to BEE and also possesses mining expertise, as evinced by the number of mining-related transactions on which the team has recently advised. It has offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town, and is a member of the DLA Piper alliance, which continues to expand across the African continent.
The Lawyers: Chris Ewing has an excellent reputation in the market. According to sources, "he is very hands-on and gives sound, strategic advice."
The "knowledgeable, reliable and charismatic" Ian Hayes heads up the corporate team and is one of the firm's mining experts.
Based in the Cape Town office, David Thompson is noted for his work in the energy sector. Clients praise his knowledge and commercial awareness.
Interviewees describe Willem Jacobs as "competent and responsive."
Up- and-coming Emma Kingdon is making a positive impression on the market because "she always delivers high-quality work." Clients also value her knowledge of IT and e-commerce law.
Interviewees rate the "young and enthusiastic" David Pinnock for his "professionalism and availability."
Clients/Work Highlights: The team advised the target on the R3,5 billion acquisition of 51% of the issued share capital of Illovo Sugar by British Foods. It is also acting for Business Connection (BCX) on a scheme of arrangement suggested by Telkom, whereby BCX will become a subsidiary of Telkom; this R4,6 billion deal is currently awaiting Competition Commission approval. Other clients include Harmony Gold Mining Company, Ellerine and Daniel Mills & Sons.
Individual rankings: Chris Ewing - Band 1; Ian Hayes - Band 2; David Thompson - Band 3; Willem Jacobs - Band 4; Emma Kingdon - Up & Coming; David Pinnock - Up & Coming
Band 2: COMPETITION / ANTITRUST
The Firm: Interviewees continue to view this as a strong competition outfit. The team numbers four partners and four associates, working out of offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town. The practitioners handle all issues relating to competition and antitrust and are described as "always on the ball, with an outstanding knowledge base." Cliffe Dekker is part of the ever-expanding DLA Piper network, which, according to interviewees, is an extra drawcard for clients and gives the firm an advantage when it comes to international transactions.
The Lawyers: Mondo Ntlha heads up the competition department and is applauded for her "amazing knowledge and detailed and informative manner." Before moving to Cliffe Dekker she was chief legal counsel and acting deputy commissioner at the Competition Commission.
Newly appointed partner Natalie von Ey "knows the ins and outs of the law and delivers outstanding results." She handles merger clearance applications and has represented clients in anti-competitive complaints cases.
Clients/Work Highlights: The team successfully acted for Harmony Gold and DRDGOLD as complainants to the Competition Commission in case against Mittal Steel relating to excessive pricing matters. This was the first excessive pricing case brought under South Africa's Competition Act. The lawyers also acted on a competition case that saw MWEB lodge a complaint against Telkom for alleged abuse of dominant position, and represented Parmalat against allegations of price fixing and manipulation of trade conditions. Other clients include Absa Bank, Coca-Cola, Independent Newspapers and Lonmin.
Individual rankings: Mondo Ntlha - Band 3; Natalie von Ey - Up & Coming
Band 2: DISPUTE RESOLUTION
The Firm: Regarding the Cliffe Dekker legacy firm, clients say: 'The disputes team at Cliffe Dekker handles commercial litigation, arbitration and ADR, and stands out for its "strong reputation and solidity". Recent mandates saw the team advise on third-party liability and professional indemnity matters. The department is made up of two partners and 14 associates, working out of offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Of the Hofmeyr legacy firm, interviewees sing the praises of this dispute practice because the lawyers “are efficient and prompt and give accurate advice.” Clients particularly commend the team for insurance and professional liability cases, as well as arbitration procedures. Commercial litigation and labour law disputes also make up the group’s bread-and-butter work. 23 partners handle litigation matters, supported by 24 associates; the commercial litigation team is part of the firm’s larger commercial department.'
The Lawyers: Clients choose Pieter Conradie for complicated cases because “he has a deep knowledge of corporate issues and a great track record.” He has notable strengths in media and telecoms law and counts Naspers and Vodacom amongst his regular clients.
Johannesburg-based Sam Oosthuizen "is not too litigious and has an excellent notion of what the client requires." His specialisms include banking law.
Jonathan Witts-Hewinson is a skilled arbitrator, market sources agree. He also advises clients on insolvency and competition law.
Clients/Work Highlights: The legacy Hofmeyr team advised Vodacom, South Africa’s largest cellular phone company, on the new Electronics Communications Act and related regulatory matters, including number portability and international gateway issues. The practice has also advised Sasol on petroleum regulatory work and competition law-related matters, acted for Naspers in defamation cases, and advised South African arms manufacturer Denel on various disputes. Other notable clients include Sun International. The legacy Cliffe Dekker team represented an international motor company in a dispute involving an assembly agreement with a third party. It also advised the subsidiary of a JSE-listed company on an action against its erstwhile directors alleging abuse of fiduciary obligations, amongst other matters.
Individual Rankings: Pieter Conradie - Band 2; Sam Oosthuizen - Band 3; Jonathan Witts-Hewinson - Band 3
Band 4: TAX
The Firm: Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr recently boosted its profile in the tax market thanks to the arrival of two practitioners from KPMG. The team comprises two partners, two senior managers and four consultants who win the respect of clients for their "deep knowledge of the business environment, commitment to the client and quick turnaround times." The firm focuses primarily on consultancy advice, especially to clients in the financial services sector. The core tax practice is based in Cape Town, although the firm also has a strong presence in Johannesburg.
The Lawyers: Valued by clients for his "astute judgement," Patrick McGurk heads up the tax group at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr. Interviewees say: "He is extremely knowledgeable on theoretical and practical matters, and he is approachable, sensible and dependable."
Clients/Work Highlights: The team advised a client on employee share incentive schemes, acted for two South African companies in shareholder restructuring matters, and assisted a client in responding to SARS inquiries. The lawyers also advised an insurance company on an employee tax review that covered contracts, travel allowances and contractual arrangements with third parties. Other clients include Virgin Active; Tiber; BMW Financial Services; Mutual & Federal and EOH Consulting.