27 Dec 2012
Africa's largest law firm, Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs (ENS), has opened another fully-integrated office in Africa.
Synergy Solicitors & Advocates of Uganda will join the law firm in January, says Piet Faber chief executive of ENS.
This follows on the firm announcing its two new offices in Burundi and Rwanda in August and confirming its intentions to develop an ever-growing footprint in Sub-Saharan Africa. Donald Nyakairu will head up the integrated office working alongside three other partners, Alexander Kibandama, Bernard Katureebe, Ronald Tusingwire and is joined by six associates.
ENSafrica now boasts more than 550 lawyers across Africa making it the law firm with the highest number of qualified African lawyers on the continent.
“What differentiates our offering is that we provide our clients, including international law firms, with a level of quality and skill that is not always easy to find across Africa, and our services are cost-effective,” says Michael Katz, ENS chairman.
He says they have a unique value-proposition in that they are based in Africa, and therefore, understand the opportunities and the challenges across this continent - Africa is not one big state, but rather a collection of unique and diverse countries, which all have their own peculiarities, legal systems and cultures.
By remaining committed to this continent, and its development, we can ensure we provide clients with an offering that sets us apart from other players. We operate in Africa, for Africa, he explains.
Unlike various other law firms who operate on the basis of an alliance, association, verein or some other form of collaboration, ENS has chosen a much more difficult path.
“At ENS all our executives are treated equally irrespective of where they find themselves on the continent,” says Mzi Mgudlwa, ENS deputy chairman.
“What drew us to join ENSafrica was because we wanted to be part of a Pan-African, fully-integrated Law firm,” says Donald Nyakairu of Synergy Solicitors & Advocates in Uganda.
Nyakairu says they believe that in the long run, the only way they can effectively service their clients, and the various international companies and entities, wanting to do business in Uganda and the wider East African Region, is by ensuring that local talent is developed and that they are able, on the ground, to provide clients with the quality advice and services they expect when doing business.
“Africa as a whole has been traditionally labelled as a difficult place to do business, even purported as being corrupt, however, we believe that those preconceptions are fast becoming a thing of the past.”
With the recent breaking-news of the lush oil reserves located in Uganda, the natural gas findings off the coast of Mozambique and in Tanzania, and Africa's copious arable land, including existing export crops such as coffee, tea and cotton, Africa presents unique opportunities for investment for both West and East companies.
He says with the continent's developing middle class, the inbound investment currently peaking at 71 percent of total FDI since 2003 and its steady economic turnaround, the requirement of legal services and the rule of law is ever growing.
“We believe that clients doing business in Africa require localised capability in all the key geographic regions across Africa - clients must know that the legal firm they trust with their business ventures, understands and is able to capitalise on the unique nuances afforded to them in each Africa country, and across the disciplines of law, tax, forensics and IP.”
Katz says all of this is not possible if you are not present and able to offer quality legal advice in each of the pertinent African jurisdiction.
According to Faber, what makes ENS tick is that their practitioners are focused on Africa and work as one team – that differentiation is key.
“When we look to advise clients, we do not look at what is ‘in it’ for a particular country or office, rather we are committed to ensuring the client gets the best advice where they seek to do business. You can only ensure this happens if your people on the ground are all treated equal,” he says Faber.
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