New York firm LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & Macrae is opening an office in Johannesburg to focus on energy and project finance work.
Two US partners are moving in to launch the practice, aimed at picking up a bigger chunk of the increasing volume of transactional work in South Africa and the region.
Energy and project finance partner Jude Kearney is moving from the Washington DC office to head the team. He will be joined by New York partner James Lapenn.
The firm joins US rival White & Case, becoming the second inter-national firm with a presence in the country. City firm CMS Cameron McKenna has an alliance relationship with local firms Canca Inc in Cape Town and Jowell Glyn & Marais in Johannesburg (The Lawyer, 25 October 1999).
Kearney says: "There's a lot going on in South Africa and there has been for a while. I'm always surprised that there aren't more international firms out here. We have been developing an African practice for the past three or four years out here so this is kind of a natural next step."
He says the opportunities to pick up work are particularly strong at the moment because the government has committed itself to a programme of privatisation.
Leboeuf's African clients include NamPower in Namibia and the Central Energy Fund. The firm has also won work advising the government of Uganda on the privatisation of its electricity utility.
The new office will work closely with the London practice, which handles a lot of work in Africa through its energy, utilities, project finance and privatisation capability.
Kearney says: "I was able to handle the work that we had here from the US, especially working with the London office, but there was work out here that we couldn't even get after without having some increased presence."