Following an extensive research and interview process of legal practice peers and clients, Chambers Global Guide has recently released its 2009 rankings of law firms and their individual lawyers. Global Chambers is viewed by many as the definitive source of information for companies seeking lawyers to advise them. Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr and 17 of its lawyers were ranked based on a process that commenced in May 2008, prior to the firm's merger. It is anticipated that the combined skills and resources are set to take the firm's 2010 ranking a notch higher.
Nick Altini Up and coming
Emil Brincker Tier 1
Preeta Bhagattjee Tier 2
Pieter Conradie Tier 2
Hans Evenhuis Tier 2
Chris Ewing Tier 1
Ian Hayes Tier 2
Johan Latsky Tier 3
Patrick McGurk Tier 2
Mondo Ntlha Tier 3
Sam Oosthuizen Tier 3
David Pinnock Up and coming
David Thompson Tier 2
Natalie von Ey Up and coming
Craig Whitley Up and coming
Deon Wilken Up and coming
Jonathan Witts-Hewinson Tier 3
Ranked Practice Areas
IT and Telecoms - Tier 1
Working on some of the country's largest procurement and outsourcing transactions has cemented this firm as a client favourite for IT and telecoms matters.
Praised for its "great turnaround times and exceptional skill," the team has had a busy year acting on behalf of Eskom and Transnet in their combined tender relating to IT outsourcing service arrangements, and advising the South African Revenue Services on various multimillion-rand technology-related tenders and outsourcing service arrangements.
Preeta Bhagattjee "is an accessible and dedicated lawyer who makes you feel like you are her only client," say admiring interviewees.
Hans Evenhuis draws on his banking and finance expertise to provide "up-to-date, top-quality advice on technology developments."
Banking & Finance - Tier 2
Individually, the banking and finance teams at Cliffe Dekker and Hofmeyr Herbstein & Gihwala both had relatively lower profiles in the market than in previous years, according to commentators. Though the impact of their recent merger is hard to calculate at this point, sources viewed it as a positive move that would increase the new team's profile and workload in the future.
The group remains at the forefront of changes in the market, having recently opened an Islamic finance unit with the help of its association with the DLA Piper Group.
The team is noted for its strong work in acquisition finance and secured lending matters but has also met with notable success in the debt capital markets arena, where it advised on the update of the City of Johannesburg's ZAR6 billion domestic MTN programme and on SABMiller's ZAR4 billion note programme. Clients applaud the lawyers' "quick turnaround time" and praise them for being "always in tune with their clients' policies and clauses."
Johan Latsky employs his significant tax and M&A experience on behalf of a client base that includes several local banks and financial institutions.
Craig Whitley focuses on secured lending and commodities finance but has lately been intrinsically involved in developing the group's Islamic finance branch.
Meanwhile, Deon Wilken is making a name for himself in project finance work, having recently acted for Standard Bank as legal adviser to the financier of two collieries.
Corporate/M&A - Tier 2
While this "solid and strong team" handles the full range of corporate activities, it is particularly well known for its work in the mining arena, where it supplies "priceless advice" to a client base including Harmony Gold Mining and BHP Billiton.
The group was involved in one of the year's headline mining deals, acting for Anooraq on the ZAR3.6 billion BEE deal with Anglo Platinum. The firm's 2008 merger with Hofmeyr Herbstein & Gihwala will no doubt continue to strengthen the practice, which is further enhanced by its association with DLA Piper.
Clients are impressed with the level of firm chairman Chris Ewing's involvement in M&A and private equity activities. He is singled out as "a pragmatic and highly effective lawyer" who is "great to have on your side - especially on difficult negotiations."
Ian Hayes provides commercially oriented advice and "a phenomenally quick turnaround time" for M&A work, especially in the resources arena.
Cape Town-based David Thompson is "a low-key yet superb" lawyer whose "sound judgement and excellent guidance" make him a real asset to his clients in the energy, retail and property sectors.
Commentators praise up-and-comer David Pinnock's "faultless and high-quality work" and his "easy-going approach, which makes building a relationship with him a breeze."
Dispute Resolution - Tier 2
Enhanced by the strength of its corporate and commercial department, this "talented group" includes seven partners whose work covers the full spectrum of commercial litigation.
The firm as a whole continues to grow, following its merger with Hofmeyr Herbstein & Gihwala in 2008, a move that impacted positively on the department, adding the skills of Pieter Conradie to the fold. Clients praise his meticulous, details-oriented approach to regulatory and product liability work.
Sam Oosthuizen has a busy practice involving aviation, banking and insolvency work for a client base that features KLM, Emirates and Lufthansa.
His colleague Jonathan Witts-Hewinson handles commercial litigation, arbitration and mediation.
Competition/Antitrust - Tier 3
The six-partner competition department at Cliffe Dekker sits at the forefront of competition developments, having recently set up a 24-hour rapid response hotline for clients with the aim of handling crises such as dawn raids, following the Competition Commission's increased focus on cartel activities.
The successful implementation of the hotline is in part attributed to the firm's association with DLA Piper, a relationship that has significantly impacted the competition group and drawn in many international clients.
Although market commentators highlight the slight blow the departure of Jean Meijer has had on the practice, the team has been active on several high-profile cases, including obtaining merger clearance for the acquisition of Ellerines Holdings by African Bank Investments.
Mondo Ntlha led on this matter and also heads the competition department. Clients benefit from her years of experience working at the Competition Commission: "She really understands the way the Commission thinks and its internal processes."
Nick Altini is recognised for his litigation experience in competition activities, while Natalie von Ey focuses on the regulatory and M&A side of competition matters. She is praised as "a highly competent practitioner who is always a pleasure to work with."
Tax - Tier 3
This firm has been steadily growing the capabilities of its tax department and is particularly focused on developing its Johannesburg office, where a recent notable arrival is Justin Liebenberg from Grant Thornton.
The group covers a wide range of tax work, including inbound and outbound investment, share incentive schemes and VAT, and acts for clients from the financial services, mining and construction industries. Clients appreciate that the team is comprised of "people who have been in the industry for many years and obviously know their game."
Chief amongst these is the head of the national tax team, Patrick McGurk, a widely respected figure in the market.
A new addition to the firm in November 2008, Emil Brincker is an "authority on tax matters" and a "prolific, standout lawyer," whose work encompasses advice on export finance, private equity, BEE and corporate reorganisation and restructuring.
Clients highlighted both his vast tax knowledge and his impeccable service. Interviewees also singled out the practice's "holistic approach - it makes sure all your legal and tax queries are covered."