ENS eyes pan-African domination with launches in Rwanda and Burundi

South African law firm ENS has embarked on a pan-Africa expansion plan with the opening of an office each in Rwanda and Burundi.

ENS, one of the largest firms in South Africa with over 500 lawyers, has unveiled plans to become a pan-African player with fully integrated offices across the continent.

The firm has recently established an office in Rwanda by taking on the five-lawyer local firm Kamanzi and Associates, which is headed by managing partner Désiré Kamanzi. At the same time, it has also launched an office in Burundi by taking on a team of lawyers led by Gilbert Nyatanyi, formerly the Burundi managing partner of East African firm Mkono & Co, which is in association with SNR Denton.

The two new offices, branded as ENS Africa Rwanda and ENS Africa Burundi, are fully financially integrated with ENS’s South African offices, according to the firm’s chief executive Piet Faber. For example, lawyers working in these two offices will receive the same remuneration packages as their comparable colleagues in South Africa.

“Many firms claim to have networks across Africa by sharing one brand or through an alliance. We feel those models add very limited value to the firms and their clients. We want to build a truly pan-African law firm with fully integrated offices made up of people who are in Africa, for Africa,” said Faber.

Faber noted that his firm is currently in discussions with a number of teams and lawyers in other African countries about further office openings.

“There may be regulatory hurdles in some countries to achieve our plans but we’ll overcome all of the issues over time,” he said. “We want to open in all major jurisdictions in Africa.

“Africa’s a sleeping giant and the market is waking up. There are many more opportunities for law firms and big needs in Africa to develop top African legal talent. We believe our expanded platform can empower African lawyers to take on and deliver legal work that is on a par with elite international firms,” Faber said.

He also admitted that his firm had been approached by several international firms for a tie-up, but is happily independent and will remain independent.

ENS has experienced strong growth over the past five years, with energy and resources and infrastructure areas being the most active. According to the firm, its annual revenue is up by 130 per cent from that of 2008, while the number of lawyers has doubled on the 2008 figure.

Currently, the firm has offices in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, Stellenbosch, Kigali and Bujumbura.