Canadian law firm in SA merger

24 October 2012

Canada’s Fasken Martineau has joined a growing list of international law firms that are looking to Africa for growth opportunities, announcing on Monday that it would be merging with South African law firm Bell Dewar.

The merger will create one of the largest law firms operating in Africa, and give Fasken Martineau the largest international footprint of any Canadian-based law firm.

Africa expertise

Bell Dewar’s 76 lawyers will significantly boost the firm’s capabilities on the continent, especially in the areas of mining, infrastructure, energy, project finance, capital markets and M&A throughout Africa.

“The addition of the Bell Dewar team of lawyers along with our existing teams in Johannesburg, London, Paris and Canada provides us with an unrivalled base of talent and experience to bring to the African and world markets,” David Corbett, firm managing partner of Fasken Martineau, said in a statement on Monday.

Blaize Vance, managing partner of Bell Dewar, said the South African firm had considered a number of potential partners for its African expansion before settling on Fasken Martineau as “the obvious choice given the firm’s reach, expertise and global capabilities”.

The integration of the two firms would be completed by the end of January 2013, with Vance becoming the merged company’s regional managing partner for Africa, based at its newly consolidated offices in Johannesburg.

Latest in a string of moves

The merger adds to Africa’s, and South Africa’s, growing status as a major player in the legal arena, following recent moves by a number of other international heavyweights.

In January, US-based law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf added eight partners and four associates from local law firm Werkmans Attorneys to its existing office in Johannesburg.

According to US website The American Lawyer, the move marked Dewey & LeBoeuf’s biggest African investment yet and made its South African office one of the largest to be opened by an international law firm.

“White & Case has seven lawyers in Johannesburg; and DLA Piper, which operates under the Swiss verein structure, is affiliated with 270-lawyer Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, one of South Africa’s largest firms,” The American Lawyer reported.

Two UK-based firms, Norton Rose and SNR Denton, have also merged or associated with South African firms in the past two years.

Norton Rose’s tie-up with local firm Deneys Reitz, completed in June 2011, gave it Africa offices in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, and was followed by the opening of offices in Casablanca, Morocco in September and, just this week, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

SAinfo reporter