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Magic Circle firms look to Africa

Posted by: Laurence Simons 07/10/13

Following in the winkle-picker footsteps of Bono, Bob Geldof and the rest of their entourage, Magic Circle law firms are attempting to latch on to the emerging economies of Africa in a bid to improve their reputation on the continent and find new streams of income as the Western legal market falters.

The latest organisation to announce a 'pan-African strategy' is Eversheds, which is planning to set up five hub offices in strategic spots across the region as well as setting up an Eversheds African Law Institute (EALI) promoting legal services and training.

Tunisia, Morocco, Ghana, South Africa and Kenya are the key markets identified by the firm as part of its ambitious scheme.

Bryan Hughes, chief executive of Eversheds, said the organisation is keen to establish its brand in Africa having already secured a part of the market in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

Economies such as South Africa's and Ghana's have helped redefine Western attitudes towards Africa, with a growing awareness that the continent has a great deal of potential when it comes to economic expansion and business development.

However, legal services still have many problems to contend with, ranging from the complex and problematic regulatory situation in many countries to a serious lack of infrastructure in others.

Boris Martor, head of Eversheds' Paris-based Africa Group, declared: "It is exciting to be at the heart of creating a new and dynamic organisation that will allow us to strengthen collaboration with our relationship firms in Africa, to set new standards of service across the continent and to bring the skills and drive of African firms to a wider international market."

He added that the company has had relationships with African legal service providers for more than a decade, with this expertise likely to stand Eversheds in good stead as it competes with other recent arrivals such as Allen & Overy.

While the prestigious legal firms are unlikely to get together and record a song about it, there is no doubt their interest in Africa will play a major role in the continent's economic growth over the coming years.