Allen & Overy joins rush to South Africa

South Africa certainly looks like the place to be at the moment. First Simmons & Simmons entered with a new alliance at the beginning of the month, now Allen & Overy looks set to launch in the country .

The firm is understood to be preparing for a South Africa office with the hire of a team from local firm Bowman Gilfillan led by banking head Lionel Shawe.

Simmons and A&O are following a major legal fashion. Ever since legacy Norton Rose merged with Deneys Reitz in 2010 the South African market has been a real hot spot.

White & Case was the first international firm when it opened in Johannesburg almost 20 years ago.

But Baker & McKenzie , Dentons and Hogan Lovells among others have all stepped in more recently. Clyde & Co was the most recent before Simmons, landing in Johannesburg with a five-lawyer raid on Linklaters’ ally Webber Wentzel’s insurance and legal liability group.

It makes sense – the country is by far the most developed legal market in sub-Saharan Africa. But with most of the favoured merger partners gone, a greenfield launch through a heavyweight partner hire is the best way in.

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