Slaughters eyes tighter African firm links in sub-Saharan push

Slaughter and May has moved to strengthen its sub-Saharan African law firm relationships by hosting a conference for 27 firms from 16 countries across the continent.

Paul Olney
Paul Olney

The City outfit put on a two-day symposium in conjunction with its European best friends to share legal and commercial expertise between 16 and 18 October near Botswanan capital Gaborone.

Slaughters and allies Bonelli Erede Pappalardo in Italy, French firm Bredin Prat, Dutch firm De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek, Germany’s Hengeler Mueller and Spain-based Uría Menéndez hosted the event for firms across Africa, with clients including Diageo, Philips and Standard Chartered Bank also attending.

The symposium, held at the Phakalane Resort, was attended by Slaughters relationship firms including Anjarwalla & Khanna in Kenya, Bentsi-Enchill Letsa & Ankomah in Ghana, Collins Newman & Co in Botswana, Madagascar and Francophone firm John W Ffooks & Co, MMAKS Advocates in Uganda and Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie in Nigeria.

There were also keynote speeches on the importance of the rule of law and the role of the courts in ensuring an investor friendly environment in Botswana from the country’s Attorney General Athaliah Molokomme and its Court of Appeal president.

Slaughters has no single best friend in each African country and, due to the general lack of choice in many states, retains ties with multiple firms to avoid being forced to refer work to a sub-standard adviser if the first option is conflicted. Practice partner Paul Olney, who oversees the firm’s international operations, said the firm in Africa aimed to mirror its Asian strategy of working with a range of firms in the region. Its African group is headed by corporate partner Nigel Boardman.

Earlier this year, for instance, it was forced to scrap its non-exclusive relationship with Australia’s Allens Arthur Robinson (now Allens) in favour of working with four local firms after Allens ties up with Linklaters (25 July 2012).

The move follows a push by rivals to enter the African market, notably by Linklaters, which is looking to strengthen its capabilities on the continent by forming a potential Allens-style alliance with South Africa’s Webber Wentzel (9 August 2012).

Fasken this week unveiled a merger with South African firm Bell Dewar (2 October 2012), while Norton Rose is set to open in Tanzania (23 October 2012).

However, Olney said the current focus was on sub-Saharan Africa, with the Maghreb states of North West Africa, including Egypt and Libya, the most likely next targets.

For more on Slaughters’ Asia-Pacific strategy, see feature