Eversheds wins battle to trade under own name in South Africa

Eversheds’ South Africa office has won a longstanding dispute to trade under the global law firm’s name.

Brian Biebuyck
Brian Biebuyck

Alliance firm Routledge Modise became a member of Eversheds International in April 2008 and practised under the banner ’Routledge Modise in association with Eversheds’.

However, the firm got into hot water after it formally changed its name to Eversheds in July 2009, leading to The Law Society of the Northern Provinces, the local law society, to argue that the firm had broken the Attorneys Act and its own rules. It ordered a name reversal (7 December 2009).

This provoked a standoff, with Eversheds claiming that the Law Society’s move was “anticompetitive” and that it should be able to trade under the global brand, just as its competitors can.

Brian Biebuyck, the Eversheds partner who also represented the firm, said: “We’re very pleased that the court took a decisive stand and ruled in our favour. While we’re permitted to continue trading as Eversheds, we’ve invited the Law Society’s attorney to meet to reach a practical resolution to the issue pending the promulgation of the new Legal Services Bill.

“It’s significant that the court also commented that it was high time for the Law Society to reconsider what essentially are archaic provisions, given the environment in which we practise law in this day and age, competing against other international law firms within a global village.”