Global law firm DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary has signalled its views on the potential of business in Africa by entering into an exclusive alliance with leading South African law firm Cliffe Dekker.


The agreement is a significant milestone for both legal practices and an important development for DLA Piper’s Africa strategy, claims the firm.  This is also the first time that a South African law firm has entered into a global alignment of this nature.


DLA Piper is a global legal services organisation with more than 3,000 lawyers in 54 offices and 20 countries across Europe, Asia and the US. Cliffe Dekker is one of South Africa’s largest full service legal practices, with more than 100 lawyers focusing on corporate and commercial law through offices in the two major cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town.


The agreement will provide a major fillip to DLA Piper’s strategic plans for Africa as well as its global strength, claims DLA Piper, and will also significantly boost Cliffe Dekker’s offering internationally and in Africa at a time when an increasing number of South African businesses are looking north.


As an alliance member Cliffe Dekker’s clients will have access to a huge legal resource across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the US providing a coordinated approach to multi-jurisdictional legal issues.


Nigel Knowles, joint CEO of DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary, says: “Earlier this year we outlined plans to develop our capability in Africa, a continent attracting substantial investment and international interest. This alliance gives us extremely strong representation in South Africa.”


In late July 2005 the firm appointed Africa experts Charles Morrison and Grant Henderson from Denton Wilde Sapte, who have a wealth of experience and strong relationships with leading law firms in key African countries with whom the global organisation is developing closer links.
DLA Piper also has other important African strengths to combine with Cliffe Dekker and Morrison’s and Henderson’s expertise, states the firm. These include close working relationships with the Miranda law firm (with offices in Angola, Mozambique, So Tom and Pri­ncipe, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde and Equatorial Guinea), the substantial experience of DLA Piper lawyers in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Francophone West and North Africa and the new DLA Piper Group member DLA Matouk Bassiouny in Egypt.


Knowles says that DLA Piper’s particular areas of interest were infrastructure development, mining, financial services, telecommunications and aviation, as it already has existing experience of these sectors. These are also some of the areas in which Cliffe Dekker is recognised as a leader in South Africa.


DLA Piper and Cliffe Dekker have worked closely together on an informal referral basis for the past five years and have already worked on a number of deals including the listing of Net 1 UEPS Technologies (formerly Aplitec) on Nasdaq. Cliffe Dekker’s client required representation in the US and was subsequently advised by lawyers in DLA Piper’s New York office.


Many large African transactions are being handled out of London and as a result of the alliance Cliffe Dekker should become involved in a number of such major African transactions in partnership with DLA Piper.