Consolidation of Mozambique’s legal market prompts PLMJ’s local merger

Portuguese firm PLMJ is set to exploit Mozambique’s changing legal ­landscape following the launch of a new office in partnership with a local Maputo-based practice.

Tiago Mendonça De Castro
Tiago Mendonça De Castro

PLMJ and Tomás Timbane & Associados Advogados have created Gabinete Legal Moçambique (GLM). The move follows the end of the three-year partnership between PLMJ and Mozambique firm MGA Advogados & Consultores in June.

“At the start of this year, we weren’t expecting to go ahead with these offices,” said Tiago Mendonça De Castro, one of the PLMJ partners leading the alliance.”Changes in the market made us decide to advance our plans, which were scheduled for next year.”

In June, three of Mozambique’s five biggest firms merged into one. MGA, H Gamito Couto Gonçalves Pereira Castelo Branco & Associados and Furtado Bhikha Loforte Popat & Associados (FBLP) came together under the name Couto Graça & Associados (CGA).

GLM will focus mainly on international transactions, but it will remain a ­full-service law firm offering assistance in corporate, tax, labour and litigation.

“PLMJ’s the muscle and with this team of lawyers we expect to go far,” said Mendonça De Castro. “It’s a step between what we had and what we cannot have – PLMJ’s own offices on the ground.”

On the split with MGA, Mendonça De Castro said any relationship with a local law firm meant “you really don’t have much control at all. When you’re in a joint venture, you must always ask twice, three times if you want to send a newsletter, and about what goes in the newsletter. This is just a small example of what ­happens in a joint ­venture.

“When you split and ­control your own destiny, things change dramatically. On a practical level, you don’t have to wait so long to provide the services.”

Mendonça De Castro was keen to stress that there was no hostility between PLMJ and MGA, adding that PLMJ will have more ­control in the new venture.

“The main difference with GLM is that by sponsoring the creation of these new offices, PLMJ brought from the outset all professional tools, logistics, IT and ­management know-how to allow this team of independent young Mozambican lawyers to perform their ­professional activity in ­accordance with the PLMJ International Legal Network standards,” he said. “We ­didn’t have to first show our local partner that PLMJ tools are an improvement before implementing them in the local structure.”

Due to an exclusivity agreement, GLM’s 10 Mozambican lawyers will only perform work for clients of the PLMJ International Legal Network.

PLMJ has invested ­heavily in communications for GLM, such as the implementation of dedicated four-digit phone numbers to connect the Lisbon and Maputo offices.
But the main challenge for the new firm will be recruitment.

“In Portugal, we can ­easily grow from 200 to 250 lawyers,” said Mendonça De Castro. “But in Mozambique, it’s very difficult to get ten good lawyers who can speak English and work in accordance with international standards.

“If we get a lot of work, we’ll need to speed up ­certain processes, such as training and hiring of lawyers. For future clients, our main challenge will be to keep them.”