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NEW York international firm White & Case is opening its 28th office, relocating Paris partner Ronald Goodman to Johannesburg to head up the operation.
Goodman and other White & Case staff are currently in South Africa looking for suitable premises, and chair of the firm's executive committee James Hurlock says the office will open as soon as a site is found.
The 575-lawyer firm already operates offices in the US, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, and the new South African base will further expand its global network.
Goodman, who has been handling arbitration work in the area for the past three years, will work with US-trained South African lawyer Enos Banda, and another White & Case partner who is yet to be named.
The firm, which already has some clients in the country, plans to handle financing and overseas operations for South African companies as well as facilitating inward foreign investment.
Hurlock says the firm decided to cost the idea of setting up the office after Goodman became "enthusiastic" about work potential in the region. But he says he has no predictions about the size the office will grow to, or how successful the practice will prove to be.
"We hope to be quite busy," says Hurlock. "There are large commercial groups in South Africa who will be looking to invest throughout Africa and abroad, and they will require assistance in doing so.
"We felt there was an opportunity there that we ought to explore."
He adds: "But I have never understood people who could tell anybody how big they were going to be in a year or so. We have no particular number picked out for what size we will be."