Cameron McKenna will announce this week that it has formed the first-ever legal alliance of a major UK law firm in South Africa, giving the City firm a foothold in the continent.
The firm intends to build a sub-Saharan network, which will eventually include firms in Mozambique and Namibia.
The exclusive relationship has been formed with Canca Inc in Cape Town and Jowell Glyn & Marais in Johannesburg.
It is expected that the alliance will eventually lead to a merger but no time limit has been set for such a move.
Jowells is an eight-partner and 22 fee earner commercial firm, staffed by predominantly white lawyers.
Canca Inc is considered one of the best black empowerment firms in South Africa, specialising in project work around Cape Town. It recently entered into a non-exclusive alliance with Jowells.
Cameron McKenna's energy partner and head of the firm's African group Paul Biggs says: “The managing partner of Canca, Pume Canca, is very well connected and we have known Jowell Glyn & Marais for a long time.”
Canca has a good relationship with EnGen, one of the country's largest energy companies, which is planning to restructure in the near future. Cameron McKenna hopes to pick up some of the workload.
Biggs who masterminded the link-up, says: “Jowell Glyn Marais is a relative boutique firm that does what they are good at – corporate, M&A, banking and IT type work.
“Canca believes that this link-up will be important in allowing them to recruit other lawyers. In South Africa good lawyers are very hard to come by and carry a heavy premium.”
Managing partner of Jowells, Don Jowell, says that South African listings in London should increase in the near future along with the amount of inward investment into the country.
“South African business naturally points towards London rather than any other country, but as Cameron McKenna has links all over Europe it has helped open up many markets to us,” he says.
Biggs says that the affiliation will be exclusive, with “the usual caveats about clients' existing relationships”.
Cameron McKenna will provide training for the alliance's lawyers. “Local lawyers haven't had the experience of the corporate and banking side that we have and we can bring that to transactions,” says Biggs.
He adds that Cameron McKenna is in discussions with a Mozambique firm to form a similar relationship and is also looking at Namibia.