Three form South African giant

Three of South Africa's largest law firms have joined forces to form one of the top five legal services outfits in the country, with a partner count of more than 60.

Finance heavyweight Bowman Gilfillan Haymen Godfrey is joining forces with IP specialists John & Kernick, and shipping, insurance and energy experts Findlay & Tait, to form Bowman Gilfillan.

John & Kernick's senior partner, Peter James, said that with South Africa fast becoming a “global player”, firms needed to offer a broader service in order to properly serve their clients' needs.

“As individual companies, each member of this new partnership has something to offer in largely specialised fields, but as commerce and trade between South Africa and foreign countries develop, there is a need for law firms to be in a position to offer services across a wider range of legal issues,” he said.

“Across the many facets of business and commercial law, Bowman Gilfillan is now a very powerful entity in the legal services industry, both locally in South Africa and internationally.”

He said that although each firm had developed different cultures in their long histories – while the oldest firm was founded 110 years ago, the newest celebrated its 75th birthday this year – this would not impede the new outfit's future growth.

“The dynamic nature of our society, combined with our increasing participation in global business and social issues, requires that we move with the times.” he added.

“The merger is a logical consequence of each of the partners correctly reading modern trends.”

The firm will have offices in five locations in South Africa: Johannesburg, Pretoria, Midrand, Capetown and Plumstead, as well as overseas offices in London and the Isle of Man.

The newly formed partnership is the latest in a long line of mergers in the South African legal market, with several of the jurisdiction's international firms swallowing up smaller outfits over the past few months.

Routledges became Routledge-Modise in September by merging with Mlambo & Modise. UK firm Stephenson Harwood has formalised its links with the newly-merged firm.

In October, Cliffe Dekker & Todd became Cliffe Dekker Fuller Moore while Hofmeyr-Herbsteins merged once in August to become Hofmeyr Herbstein Gihwala & Cluver and then again in November to become Hofmeyr Herbstein Gihwala Cluver & Walker – now the biggest law firm in South Africa.