DWS causes friction with local Kenyan firms

A spat between Kenyan firms has engulfed Denton Wilde Sapte (DWS), underlining the difficulties the UK firm has with operating in Africa.

DWS operates a network of six associated firms across Botswana, Ghana, Mauritius, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. These firms can use the DWS brand, but they operate independent partnerships.

However, DWS also has looser best friends relationships with firms in other countries, including Hamilton Harrison & Mathews in Kenya.

Hamiltons invited DWS to tender with it for instruction on Kenya Re’s privatisation. Legal fees for the winning consortium would stretch to slightly more than £58,000.

Successful in its pitch, Hamiltons and DWS’s joint mandate was challenged in a national complaints tribunal by local firms Muriu Mungai and Daly & Figgis on the basis that DWS lawyers were not admitted to the Kenyan bar.

Although the tribunal threw out the appeal on 27 November and said that foreign firms could partner local lawyers to pitch for work, it highlighted holes in DWS’s capacity.

DWS’s director for African development Paul Bugingo said the firm would not be opening its own Kenyan office with locally qualified DWS lawyers.

“If anything, we feel vindicated that our system works,” said Bugingo. “Hamiltons is one of Kenya’s top firms and we continue to work together.”