22 March 2011 by

Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr appoints new Chairman and CEO

Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr announced today that Chris Ewing will become Chairman of the firm on 1 April 2011 and that Brent Williams, a director in the corporate and commercial practice group, has been appointed as CEO with effect from 1 April 2011.

The appointments have been made with the long term sustainability of the firm in mind and underscore the firm's progress towards achieving its growth and transformation strategies developed over the past 10 years under Ewing's watch.

Ewing was appointed as chairman of the legacy Cliffe Dekker law firm on 1 September 2001, just before the events of September 11 in the United States that changed the face of world markets.

In 2005, he formalised the firm's association with DLA Piper, marking the first such affiliation of a South African law firm with a global partner. He led the firm through the merger with Hofmeyr Herbstein & Gihwala in 2008, which established Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr as one of the country's largest business law firms. Ewing was then appointed CEO of Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, just ahead of the global economic meltdown. Under his leadership, the firm has implemented a successful merger during particularly tough economic circumstances.

Williams joined the firm as a director in the corporate and commercial practice in 2003 when the Cape Town law firm, Y Ebrahim & Co merged with Cliffe Dekker. He began his legal career at Y Ebrahim & Co where he served his articles and ultimately, became a director in 1995. Williams established a reputation as a highly regarded corporate and commercial lawyer at Cliffe Dekker. He has been involved in the firm's executive leadership since 2004 and has played a major role in guiding Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr in its transformation strategy and development.

Ewing said that the Chairman and CEO roles would be structured differently from the roles as they currently exist within the firm.

"We recognise that the post-merger phase presents new challenges and opportunities. In our new roles, Brent and I will be able to focus our particular strengths, experience and skills to drive Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr's growth.

"As Chairman, I will concentrate on developing our growth strategies, which will include our relationship with DLA Piper globally and in Africa. I will be able to spend more time on client relationships and I look forward to returning to the practise of law in a client oriented role. I am looking forward to serving as a mentor and adviser to our younger lawyers," Ewing said.

Williams believes that the firm has a unique strength in its method of working in team structures. "As member of the firm's transformation committee, I have firsthand experience of the value gained through sharing our diverse views as individuals working together to achieve a common goal.

"Transformation is a cornerstone of our firm's policy and aspirations. Our Level Two Contributor BEE rating clearly demonstrates the importance we place on implementing an effective transformation policy."

Williams added that Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr's transformation aspirations are sensitive to the broader socio-economic and environmental context within which the firm does business.

"We strive to make a positive contribution to South Africa's developmental challenges and within the firm we see transformation as living our values and principles," Williams said.

"These appointments are an expression of our firm's team and diversity approach, to both firm leadership and practice. In the true spirit of partnership, they enhance value to the firm and to our clients."

Williams sees his new role as CEO as introducing a new way of building for the future. "Our Exco and directors have voted in favour of long term sustainability by allowing a relatively young partner, such as I am, to taking a managing partner role in the firm. This bodes well for future succession planning and allows for a more flexible future management model. Our firm is made up of a dynamic combination of young and highly experienced lawyers who work together as a unified team," he said.

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