CLA expands network into Africa

COMMERCIAL Law Affiliates (CLA), the world's largest international law firm network, has increased its numbers with the addition of 10 more firms, including its first members in Africa.

The African firms are based in Johannesburg, Capetown and Lagos. Minneapolis-based CLA now has 181 member firms in more than 60 countries on six continents. Its members are all medium-sized commercial practices.

Leon Steinberg, CLA president, says: “It was never CLA's goal to become the largest network of law firms in the world.

“The affiliation and its members are more concerned with providing clients with a high-quality, cost-effective legal service. Expanding internationally was a means to that end.”

In policing its network, CLA will and has terminated firms' membership. In its five-year history the network has ejected “less than half a dozen”, with the last firms leaving four months ago, says CLA executive director Wendy Lamphear.

That firm was asked to leave because of “lack of responsiveness – they weren't timely to requests from other members,” says Lamphear.

“We are only as strong as our weakest firm and so we take it very seriously.”

Founded in November 1990 with 66 US firms, CLA admitted its first non-US firm in 1991. The firms share resources, information, and practice management skills.

CLA has doubled in size over the last 22 months, adding 107 new members. Since December 1994 it has added members in South Africa, Cyprus, Nigeria, Senegal, and in various US states.

With members in around 240 cities, CLA can provide access to lawyers in virtually all major commercial centres, says Lamphear.