Dewey adds eight-partner Werksmans team to South Africa base

Dewey & LeBoeuf has significantly expanded its presence in South Africa with the hire of eight partners from local rival Werksmans.


The lawyers, known as directors at their former firm, include Morné van der Merwe and Wildu du Plessis, respectively the head ofWerksmans’ mining and resources practice and its banking and finance/capital markets group.

Three of the eight partners – van der Merwe, du Plessis and banking partner Chris Moraitis – are joining Dewey as full equity partners.

The move is aimed at expanding the US firm’s capabilities inJohannesburg, which until now featured just two partners after a decade in the market.

Dewey’s primary focus in South Africa has been on project finance, but the addition of the eight-partner team is expected to see the firm expand into banking, mining and general corporate.

Van der Merwe, whose clients include Xstrata, ArcelorMittal  and Forbes & Manhattan Coal Corporation, said Dewey’s international platform had been a key factor in the move.

“Clients are increasingly demanding international capability,” said van der Merwe. “It’s important to be internationally competitive and domestically relevant and it’s not possible to be domestically relevant if you don’t have enough critical mass in the local market.”

The lawyers joined Dewey at the end of December and officially began work this week. Van der Merwe has now become co-chair of the firm’s global natural resources practice with partner Nabil Khodadad while du Plessis has become co-managing partner of the Johannesburg office with partner Scott Brodsky.

Steve Davis
Steve Davis

Dewey chairman Steve Davis said in a statement: “The addition of this team of high-quality, respected lawyers places us at the head of the market and presents exciting opportunities to grow our practice in Africa as the continent continues to become a more significant part of the global economy.”

The other five Werksmans directors joining Dewey are Astrid Berman, Esmé Ferreira, Amelia Heeger, Muhammed Sader and Mike van Rensburg.

Werksmans did not return calls for comment.