9 June 2011 by , , , , , and

Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr introduces new management structure

Recent appointments at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr underline the speed of development within the firm over the past two and a half years and encapsulate the progress the firm is making towards achieving its growth and transformation objectives.

A number of important executive management appointments and changes have been announced.

  • Chris Ewing was appointed chairman on 1 April 2011
  • Brent Williams was appointed CEO on 1 April 2011

Chris Ewing has played a pivotal role in leading the firm to its current position as one of South Africa's most dynamic and successful business law firms. Chris began his legal career at the legacy Cliffe Dekker firm as a candidate attorney in 1974 and as a director in 1979. He was elected chairman in September 2001. 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 Cliffe Dekker through the merger with Hofmeyr Herbstein & Gihwala in September 2008 to establish Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr as one of the country's largest commercial law firms, with Chris as CEO.

As chairman, Chris will concentrate on developing the firm's growth strategies, which includes the all important relationship with DLA Piper globally and in Africa. He will spend more time on client relationship management and mentoring younger lawyers. Chris has now returned to the practise of law in a client oriented role - welcome news for many clients. Chris is recognised internationally as one of South Africa's best corporate lawyers through numerous accolades, awards and listings achieved in the world's leading business and professional publications, including the Chambers Global Guide and Legal 500.

Brent 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' reputation as a highly regarded Corporate and Commercial lawyer is acknowledged in international publications such as the Legal 500 and Best Lawyers International. 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.

As CEO, Brent sees his role 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," Brent said in a recent press interview.

"Our firm is made up of a dynamic combination of young and highly experienced lawyers who work together as a unified team.

Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr is unique in South Africa from a management perspective in that it has for a long time been managed by a diverse team, from the perspective of race, gender and seniority. We are a firm that celebrates its diversity and are proud of our progress towards our transformation aspirations. Our Level Two Contributor BEE rating clearly demonstrates this. We also have more women partners and more black partners than any other law firm in the country."

Cape region appointments

Gasant Orrie has been appointed managing partner, Cape region.

Gasant Orrie was admitted as an attorney in 1991. He practised in law firms in Cape Town and Johannesburg before being appointed Chief Legal Advisor at South African Airways in 1995, where he served as a member of the SAA's Executive Committee, Aviation Safety Review Board and Transformation Committee. He joined Hofmeyr Herbstein & Gihwala (now Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr) in 1997 as a director and became joint managing partner of Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr in 2008.

Gasant specialises in corporate and commercial law with a focus on mergers and acquisitions in the hotel and leisure, tourism and hospitality, and real estate sectors. He has a special interest in the aviation and airline industry, and public private partnerships. He is recognised as one of South Africa's leading lawyers listed in Best Lawyers International and the Legal 500.

The Cape managing partner role was previously jointly shared between Gasant and Jo Neser following from the formation of Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr in September 2008. Jo continues as a director and, as an active member of the firm's national executive committee, will continue the contribution he has made to the firm in that capacity over many years.

Gasant's appointment expresses the 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.

A number of changes have been made in respect of the Regional Practice Heads in our Cape Town office.

David Thompson is the Regional Practice Head in the Cape Town Corporate and Commercial practice. Peter Hesseling's role as joint Regional Practice Head falls away.

Andrew Heiberg is the Regional Practice Head in the Cape Town Real Estate practice. Alex Abercrombie's position as joint Regional Practice Head falls away.

The Regional Practice Head positions for Competition, Tax, Finance, Projects and Banking and TMT fall away and the practitioners within those practice areas now fall under the remit of their respective National Practice Heads.

The Cape Town Dispute Resolution and Employment Law practice areas will continue to be headed by Regional Practice Heads, Grant Ford and Gillian Lumb respectively.

Terry Winstanley, Eben Van Wyk and Johann Jacobs will remain the National Practice Heads for the Environmental Law, Intellectual Property and Trusts and Estates practice areas, respectively.

New National Practice Head for the Finance, Projects and Banking practice

Ludwig Smith has been appointed National Practice Head: Finance Projects and Banking. Ludwig has assumed the role vacated by Joz Coetzer with effect from 1 May 2011.

Joz, who has been National Practice Head of the Finance, Projects and Banking practice area since its inception and founded the Finance and Banking practice area in the legacy Cliffe Dekker firm, has decided to stand down. He believes that the department requires a new focus and structure. Joz will be supporting endeavours to ensure that the practice area achieves even greater heights under Ludwig's stewardship.

Ludwig is recognised as a Tier 1 Banking and Finance lawyer in the Chambers Global Guide and has been selected by the International Who's Who of Banking Lawyers as being among the world's leading lawyers in his field.

Newly launched Pro Bono and Human Rights practice

Our dedicated Pro Bono and Human Rights practice was launched as a commitment to strengthening the firm's pro bono services. Headed up by Christine Jesseman the department focuses on creating partnerships and nurturing relationships with NGO's, non-profit organisations, and other appropriate institutions on a pro bono basis, as well as undertaking substantive project work. Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr is committed to respecting and promoting the rights entrenched in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution. As a corporate citizen, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr is committed to facilitating access to justice for the disadvantaged and vulnerable, and providing legal services to NGOs or non-profit organisations.

These commitments form part of the offering of our dedicated Pro Bono and Human Rights practice.

Aligned with DLA Piper’s global strategy

Reorganisation within Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr is in line with DLA Piper's global best practice model and signifies further steps in aligning our firm with the DLA Piper structure as we simultaneously adapt to our clients business needs to deliver a global service. These structures will enable effective delivery of strategic priorities and ultimately enable us to become the leading business law firm in South Africa. This astrategy is consistent with DLA Piper's vision to become the leading global business law firm.

Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr is the South African member firm of DLA Piper Africa Group and part of the DLA Piper global law firm, which is now the world's biggest law firm. It has over 4,200 lawyers across 76 offices and in 30 countries in Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and the United States as well as additional DLA Piper Group firms across Africa.

DLA Piper has recently been ranked number one among the world's leading global law firms, that "are called on to handle groundbreaking global transactions of incredible complexity". (Law 360 2011).

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