Landmark deal heralds the dawn of a new SA legal giant with a true global footprint
Cliffe Dekker and Hofmeyr Herbstein & Gihwala, two of the top law firms in South Africa, today announced their intention to merge. The directors from both firms have already approved the merger which remains subject to regulatory approval. The combined world-class firm will begin operating in September with some 127 directors in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Chris Ewing will be appointed CEO and Dines Gihwala Chairman.
The decision to merge makes good commercial sense but also comes at a time when the rapidly changing South African legal landscape requires medium sized law firms to choose to either scale up or become niche practices. This is driven by an evident global trend that sees growing companies and multinationals reducing the numbers of law firms on their panels as they seek a 'one-stop-shop' solution to their requirements. This trend bodes well for large full-service commercial law firms with an international reach.
Dines Gihwala, current Chairman of Hofmeyr, added:
"We are two top tier firms and the decision to merge is a natural fit supported by complementary visions, growth objectives and no major conflicts of interest.
"Both firms are the champions of empowerment in the legal profession. Some 30% of the shares post merger will be held by Black directors while some 24% will be held by women.
"As a single entity, we are exceptionally well-positioned to take full advantage of the changing legal landscape and as a result of the merger, will be able to improve our already excellent service offering. I am excited at the prospects brought about by the collective critical mass, reputation and client base that will be created."
Both firms enjoy a solid reputation across a wide range of practice areas and, in recent years, have experienced substantial growth driven by their respective clients' investment and expansion initiatives locally and abroad. This new combination will offer clients an enhanced pool of outstanding talent and capabilities across the full range of practice areas demanded of a corporate law firm.
Chris Ewing, current Chairman of Cliffe Dekker, commented: "We are delighted about the transaction. This is a very exciting day for all of us and a milestone in the South African legal fraternity.
"In terms of directors, our research shows that we will be the largest law firm in the country and gives us deep industry skills as well as the capacity to further specialise and develop our service offering, while ensuring that clients benefit from our strengthened capabilities, diversity and services locally and internationally."
The new firm will be run as one entity and benefit from Cliffe Dekker's existing relationship with global law firm DLA Piper. The DLA Piper Group positions the new firm to provide comprehensive and coordinated legal services to clients working in all the major business centres around the world.
"Our link with DLA Piper dates back to 2005, when Cliffe Dekker became the first South African law firm to enter into an exclusive relationship with a truly global player boasting an unrivalled group of firms across the world," Ewing said.
"Africa, in particular, is a key growth area for both Cliffe Dekker and Hofmeyr. The DLA Piper Group has an unrivalled network of firms on the African continent. Cliffe Dekker has worked on a number of diverse projects together with DLA Piper in Africa."
With more than 8,000 staff, some 3,700 lawyers including more than 1,500 partners in 64 offices across five continents, DLA Piper is by some accounts the biggest law firm in the world.
UK-based joint CEO of DLA Piper, Nigel Knowles commented that:
"Size, influence and global reach help us bring the right talents and experience to meet the needs of our clients, whatever their size and wherever they may be.
"However, our strategy is more about adding value wherever our clients do business, than it is about size. Our full service domestic practices help us to develop high quality relationships with leading local companies around the world and to be global in scale and local in feel.
"We are extremely pleased to welcome the new firm to the DLA Piper Group. Africa is a key growth area for us and we look forward to working with the combined team to develop and grow our practice in the region."
The new Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr brand, incorporating the DLA Piper 'look and feel', will be unveiled later this year.