East Africa: Eastern time

East Africa is one of the more developed legal markets in the continent, with a significant amount of work flowing between jurisdictions. Kenya leads the way, with several large and well-established firms which are now embroiled in a war for talent.

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Mauritius is distinguished by being a popular offshore market. Three offshore firms have a foothold there in one form or another and the jurisdiction is a centre for holding companies for investments into India and Africa. 

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The other East African jurisdictions are less restrictive. Although Tanzania requires lawyers to be admitted to the local bar to act as advocates, foreign firms can operate there and both Clyde & Co and Norton Rose Fulbright have set up ofices there.

Also, lawyers say that the developing political union of the East African Community will drive further convergence in the markets.

 

Kenya

Mauritius

Tanzania

Uganda

Kenya

Anjarwalla & Khanna

Managing partner: Karim Anjarwalla

Total number of partners: 13

Total number of lawyers: 60

Founded: 1953

Networks/associations: Africa Legal Network

Top deals of 2013:

  • Acted for the Triumph Power Generating Company on the financing and development of an 83MW thermal power plant in Athi River, Kenya.
  • Acted for the Government of Kenya on the tender of the rights to mine coal deposits in the Mui Basin, won by China’s Fenxi Mining Industry.
  • Represented Thailand’s PTTEP on its acquisition of oil block interests in Kenya.

Kenya’s biggest firm Anjarwalla & Khanna was a key founding member of the Africa Legal Network in 2004. Managing partner Karim Anjarwalla says the firm realised clients wanted an increasing amount of cross-border advice and that some sort of network or brand operating across several African countries would be the way to deliver it.

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While benefiting from the expansion of the network over the past decade, Anjarwalla & Khanna has also been expanding. Anjarwalla says the firm’s retention rate is one of the best in the market, thanks to a policy adopted early on to have robust recruitment and training procedures. Several of its younger partners have spent their entire careers at the firm and 2014 saw the highest intake of pupils (or trainees) in the firm’s history.

The firm is also in the middle of a recruitment drive and is moving offices to accommodate its growing numbers. 

Mining, energy, infrastructure and real estate are core focus areas at the moment. Anjarwalla & Khanna is also set to launch a tax team later this year.

The firm decided to professionalise its support functions several years ago. It has dedicated teams for HR, finance and IT – with seven staff in the latter department – which allows lawyers to focus on being good lawyers.  

Coulson Harney

Total number of partners: 10

Total number of lawyers: 35

Founded: 2008

Networks/associations: Bowman Gilfillan Africa Group, Lex Mundi

Top deals of 2013:

  • Advised Dimension Data Holdings on its $35m (£21m) takeover of Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE)-listed telecoms company AccessKenya Group.
  • Acted for Centum Investment Company on its KES5bn (£35m) NSE-listed bond issue.
  • Represented WPP Group on the increase of its shareholding in NSE-listed media services business Scangroup.

In the five years since its foundation, Coulson Harney has blossomed into one of Kenya’s biggest firms.

It was founded in 2008 when Kaplan & Stratton partners Philip Coulson and Richard Harney broke off to set up alone. With the late 2013 hire of Hamilton Harrison & Mathews partner Paras Shah – the first time a partner in a rival firm had joined Coulson Harney as a partner – the firm now has 10 partners, another 25 qualified lawyers and a handful of trainees.

From the start Coulson Harney has been a member of Bowman Gilfillan’s Africa Group, supporting the South African firm in the group’s expansion. 

Harney says the decision to break away from Kaplan & Stratton was a result of his and Coulson’s belief that there was scope for more competition in the Kenyan market. The firm’s growth to date and its plans to expand further bear out this opinion.

Coulson Harney is moving into new central Nairobi offices in June this year, which will give it more space to continue its development. The firm’s original core areas were corporate and finance, but it now also focuses on litigation. Two senior associates were recently hired locally to develop a contentious practice.

Harney says Bowman Gilfillan has supported the firm in its operational development, mainly on IT systems but also in areas such as marketing. The firm also has its own support teams. 

While its membership of the Africa Group provides an easy referral network, Coulson Harney has international relationships with a number of firms including Baker & McKenzie , Clifford Chance , Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer , Herbert Smith Freehills and Latham & Watkins . It has also just joined Lex Mundi.

Hamilton Harrison & Mathews

Total number of partners: 11

Total number of lawyers: 28

Firm founded: 1902

Networks/associations: Dentons

Top deals of 2013:

  • Advising on the proposed East Africa Pipeline Project, which will see the constriction of an oil pipeline from Uganda and Kenya. The pipeline will be the longest pipeline in East Africa.
  • Advised the International Finance Corporation (part of the World Bank Group) in relation to Kenyatta University’s PPP project for student accommodation. This is the first major project under the Public Private Partnerships Act 2013. 
  • Advising four European and American companies on their investment in the largest wind power project in East Africa, which will add 300MW to the national grid.

One of the older firms in Kenya, Hamilton Harrison & Mathews is growing. Although partner Paras Shah moved to Coulson Harney last year, the firm has made up three partners internally to bring the total number to 11.

The firm has had an association with Dentons for some years. The arrangement is non-exclusive, allowing Hamilton Harrison to work with other major international firms such as Baker & McKenzie, Clifford Chance and Simmons & Simmons.

Hamilton Harrison partner Daniel Wanjau says the firm gains not just referrals from its Dentons relationship, but also has the opportunity to share information and resources. It also gets access to the rest of Dentons’ Africa network for referrals into and out of other African countries. Wanjau adds that Hamilton Harrison also sends work out of Kenya to its ally.

The firm has grown steadily over the past few years, but Wanjau says the focus has always been on recruiting young lawyers and developing them internally rather than lateral hires. Hamilton Harrison has developed rigorous processes to make its training as good as possible, he adds.

On the operational front, the firm has spent several years putting cash aside to make investments in areas such as technology. Last year it spent some of those savings on new accounting and email systems and plans further such investment.

Future growth is likely to be in the energy and natural resources sectors, including in oil and gas and renewable energy. PPP and infrastructure are also tipped for growth, Wanjau says.

Kaplan & Stratton

Senior partner: Fred Ojiambo

Total number of partners: 16

Total number of lawyers: 30

Founded: 1927

Networks/associations: Lex Africa

Top deals of 2013:

  • Represented Kenyan-listed City Trust and I&M Bank in connection with the reverse takeover of City Trust by shareholders of I&M Bank by way of a share exchange, valued at KES14.6bn.
  • Advised L’Oréal on the multimillion-dollar acquisition of a Kenyan cosmetics manufacturer. MMC Africa and Muchoki Kangata & Co advised the seller.
  • Acted as Kenya transaction counsel for OrPower on the geothermal power plant’s expansion from 48MW to 85MW. The deal included refinancing of the project, with $310m from OPIC.

Kaplan & Stratton is one of the oldest firms in Kenya and was one of the founders of pan-African network Lex Africa in 1993. The firm has no particular practice focus but works across corporate, finance and litigation.

Lex Africa is a non-exclusive network but commercial partner Nigel Shaw says it provides Kaplan & Stratton with an easy way of offering clients a service spanning several African countries. Shaw says the network and the firm’s extensive relationships with international firms means it does not need a deeper association with a foreign outfit. 

“We’ve taken a view that we’re always open to suggestions and we’re always looking to see if the market changes,” Shaw adds.

Shaw estimates that Kaplan & Stratton has worked with about 50 international firms in the past two years, including Clyde & Co, Eversheds , Linklaters , Norton Rose Fulbright and Shearman & Sterling .

The firm has invested in technology over the past year
or so, most recently in document management and accounting systems.

It is also investing in people, with several associates now experienced enough to be considered for partnership. However, as making up all of them at once is unrealistic, Shaw says the firm is considering adding another layer below its existing partnership structure. Future growth is also likely.

Walker Kontos

Managing partner: Michael Kontos

Senior partner: Alexandra Kontos

Total number of partners: 8

Total number of lawyers: 20

Founded: 1988

Networks/associations: None

Walker Kontos is unusual in the Kenyan market as it is truly independent, with no ties to any associations or networks. The firm instead operates on a referral basis with a wide range of firms across Africa and internationally, with links to outfits such as Addleshaw Goddard , Herbert Smith Freehills, Norton Rose Fulbright and Simmons & Simmons.

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The firm was founded 25 years ago by Alexandra Kontos and is now managed by her son Michael. It has housed about 20 lawyers for the past few years and Michael Kontos believes this is a suitable number of staff for the firm.

An increasing amount of the firm’s work concerns international clients but there are no plans to alter the strategy of independence.

Kontos says the firm is fully up to speed when it comes to technology, but adds that investment in its PR and marketing functions is likely in the future.

Mauritius

Benoit Chambers

Managing partner: Clarel Benoit

Total number of partners: 2

Total number of other lawyers: 10

Networks/associations: Dentons

Benoit Chambers joined Dentons’ Africa network in 2011. The firm focuses on company law and financial services, providing a key link for investors into sub-Saharan Africa and for the various members of Dentons’ Africa network.

The firm is led by Clarel Benoit, who has been called to the English as well as the Mauritian bar.

BLC Chambers

Managing partner: Iqbal Rajahbalee

Total number of partners: 4

Total number of lawyers: 24

Founded: 2006

Networks/associations: Africa Legal Network, Harneys

The founders of BLC Chambers deliberately chose a name that was not associated with any of their own, to mark how they were establishing a modern, progressive firm. The firm was founded in January 2006 and became a founder member of the Africa Legal Network (ALN) in 2008. Last year BLC also signed an association agreement with offshore firm Harneys.

Managing partner Iqbal Rajahbalee explains that BLC has always had a focus towards mainland Africa, which in 2006 went against the grain as Mauritius acted as an investment hub for India. 

Since then, an increasing number of companies are using Mauritius as a conduit into sub-Saharan Africa and BLC’s membership of the ALN is important for picking up work.

However, Rajahbalee says BLC is also determined to retain its links with the local economy. Income sources are split equally between international and cross-border work and domestic Mauritian work. 

Historically, BLC has been strong in real estate but it also has thriving banking and finance, tax, investment funds and capital markets practices. It recently began to develop litigation and compliance teams too.

BLC has worked hard to develop a transparent career path for associates, drafting in a consultant to advise on how to assess competencies. The firm expects to make its first internal promotions this year, but growth could also come from lateral hiring.

Rajahbalee says work is referred from a variety of City of London firms, but Hong Kong firms also provide a good amount of instructions thanks to Mauritius’s links with Asia.

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Tanzania

ATZ Law Chambers

Managing partner: Shamiza Ratansi

Number of partners: 2

Number of total lawyers: 11

Founded: 2014

Networks/associations: Africa Legal Network

Top deals of 2013:

  • Acted as local legal adviser to Citibank International as facility agent and syndication lender for a syndicated term loan for TZS408bn (£151m) provided to Tanzania Electric Supply Company.
  • Advised Catalyst on the acquisition as a going concern of EFFCO Solutions, a local plant and machinery hire business.
  • Advised a large global cement manufacturing company on competition law.

ATZ Law Chambers is a brand-new entrant on the Tanzanian legal scene, but one with a long, complex history. 

The firm was originally known
as Ringo & Associates before becoming Adept through a merger with Abenry & Company Advocates in 2010. It was one of the first to join the Africa Legal Network (ALN) in 2004. 

In 2013 partner Shamiza Ratansi took over as managing partner after Frederick Ringo left the firm to become director-general of Tanzania’s Fair Competition Commission. Another partner, Mustafa Tharoo, also quit Adept last year to go on sabbatical.

In early 2014, Ratansi and colleague Amish Shah, along with the rest of Adept’s corporate team, reformed the firm as ATZ Law Chambers. The firm has entered a strategic relationship with Kenya’s
Anjarwalla & Khanna as part of the ALN’s plans to integrate its members more closely. 

The ALN already offers support in terms of capacity where needed, as well as cross-referrals. In the past legacy Adept worked most often with its allies in Kenya and Uganda, but Mauritius and the ALN associate office in Dubai are providing increasing amounts of work. 

In addition, Ratansi says legacy Adept worked regularly with international firms such as Allen & Overy , Baker & McKenzie, Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith Freehills and Latham & Watkins.

The firm is predominantly a corporate and commercial practice.

FB Attorneys

Managing partner: Fayaz Bhojani

Total number of partners: 3

Total number of lawyers: 21

Networks/associations: State Capital Group

FB Attorneys boasts combined experience of over 70 years and markets itself as a full-service firm. 

As well as 21 lawyers, the firm employs three consultants – training specialist Goodluck Chuwa, who heads the practical training department at the Law School of Tanzania; US finance expert Alex Mallozzi, who is in charge of project finance; and Chinese lawyer Zhu Min, who is a senior associate at China’s AllBright Law Offices .

The firm is not part of any African alliance, although it is a member of global network State Capital Group.

FB Attorneys employs a full-time head of corporate relations, who focuses on client relationship management.

Mkono & Co

Managing partner: Nimrod Mkono

Senior partner: Wilbert Kapinga

Total number of partners: 5

Total number of lawyers: 23

Founded: 1977

Networks/associations: Dentons, Terralex

Mkono & Co’s relationship with Dentons first began with legacy Denton Wilde Sapte in 2000, long before the firm became an international behemoth. It also has relationships with firms in areas not covered by Dentons’ Africa group, and is part of network Terralex.

The firm’s diverse group of lawyers is led by Nimrod Mkono, who is also a member of the Tanzanian parliament. Last year the firm hired partner Angela Thorns, previously a partner at Malta’s Dingli & Dingli.

Lawyers originating from India, the US and other African jurisdictions also work at the firm. 

Unusually for an African firm, Mkono & Co is present in more than one jurisdiction, with an office in Burundi.

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Uganda

AF Mpanga & Co

Managing partner: William Kasozi

Senior partner: David Mpanga

Total number of partners: 5

Total number of lawyers: 17

Founded: 2003

Networks/associations: Bowman Gilfillan Africa Group, Lex Mundi

Top deals of 2013:

  • Advised Bharti Airtel on its acquisition of the operations of Warid Telecom in Uganda.
  • Advised CNOOC Uganda on negotiations with the Government of Uganda on the fiscal terms for associated natural gas.
  • Advised Guaranty Trust Bank (Nigeria) on the acquisition of Fina Bank Uganda, valued at about $100m (£60m). The transaction involved the concurrent acquisition of Fina Bank operations in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.

Corporate specialist AF Mpanga & Co this year became the Ugandan Lex Mundi member firm, adding to its existing membership of the Bowman Gilfillan Africa Group. The firm was founded a decade ago and spent its first five years building up its capabilities.

Its next five years were devoted to building a wider Africa focus with a project named ‘Africa 2013’. Senior partner David Mpanga says the firm initially talked to a number of others in a bid to grow its presence across the continent, but in 2010 began discussions with South African firm Bowman Gilfillan.

“We found that the values and the vision fit was much better with Bowman than with anybody else,” says Mpanga. In particular, the group’s aim of working as a single independent African firm in several countries appealed. AF Mpanga formally joined the Africa Group in 2012 and is now beginning to see the benefits.

The increased operational support provided by the larger firm coupled with an adjusted remuneration system should make AF Mpanga more attractive for new recruits. The firm plans to add up to 10 people over the next 18 months, primarily looking to attract Ugandans working abroad to come back home.

Mpanga estimates that about two-thirds of clients are either international or a Ugandan subsidiary of an international company. 

AF Mpanga has worked with foreign firms including Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith Freehills and Simmons & Simmons.

Katende Ssempebwa & Co

Senior partners: John Katende and Frederick Ssempebwa

Total number of partners: 10

Total number of lawyers: 23

Founded: 1969

Networks/associations: Lex Africa

Uganda’s largest firm Katende Ssempebwa & Co is the local member of Lex Africa. The firm has a three-tiered partnership led by senior partners John Katende and Frederick Ssempebwa, with four partners and four associate partners sitting below them – most with law degrees from the UK and US. Four tiers of associates support the partners.

Katende Ssempebwa’s broad range of practice areas come under two umbrellas – transactional and contentious.

The firm has invested heavily in technology in recent years. It established an electronic library which catalogues case law and statutes in Uganda and developed a bespoke document management system. It has also provided mobile devices such as BlackBerries and iPads for lawyers, enabling flexible working.

MMAKS

Co-managing partners: Timothy Masembe and Moses Adriko

Total number of partners: 8

Total number of lawyers: 19

Firm founded: 2005

Networks/associations: Africa Legal Network

MMAKS was an early member of the Africa Legal Network, joining in 2005, and has strong links internationally. As well as fielding lawyers with qualifications from around the world, the firm has sent lawyers on secondment to firms including Ashurst , Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Hogan Lovells , Slaughter and May and Stephenson Harwood . The firm has also sent litigators on secondment to barristers’ chambers such as Essex Court and 3VB.

MMAKS was founded in 2005 when a number of smaller practices, including Mugerwa & Masembe Advocates, merged. Since then it has expanded steadily, adding a number of associates, particularly in the past three years.

The firm focuses on commercial, IP and mining transactions and has a strong litigation practice. 

Recent transactions include a large number of telecoms M&As for clients such as Essar Communications. Other clients include Colgate Palmolive, Google Uganda, the Bank of Uganda and Stanbic Bank.

MMAKS also puts emphasis on corporate social responsibility – something which few African firms currently highlight – and provides pro bono advice to a number of Ugandan charities.

Key facts

Tanzania

GDP: $33.8bn          

Inflation: 6%

Population: 49.3m

Life expectancy at birth: 60   

Unemployment: 11.7%

Source: World Bank, African Development Bank Group, National Bureau of Statistics

Key facts

Uganda

GDP: $25.6bn          

Annual inflation: 6.9%

Population: 37.6m

Life expectancy at birth: 58   

Unemployment rate: 3.6%

Source: World Bank, African Development Bank Group, Uganda Bureau of Statistics