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Dentons furthers pan-African play as it announces five new local deals

Dentons is showing no sign of slowing its expansion spree of late, making it ten tie-ups in less than two months after announcing it is to enter another five African countries and add a further 54 lawyers to its ranks.

The 10,000-lawyer firm said it is to combine with a firm each in Angola, Morocco, Mozambique, Uganda and Zambia, building on what chief executive Elliott Portnoy described as a strategy to ‘become the first pan-African law firm, owned and controlled by Africans’.

Subject to a vote by the partnership which will take place before 25 September, the African firms Dentons is to add to its global verein this time around are: ten-lawyer LEAD Advogados in Angola; 12-lawyer Sayarh & Menjra in Morocco; 17-lawyer Fernanda Lopes & Associados Advogados in Mozambique; four-lawyer Kyagaba and Otatiina Advocates in Uganda; and 11-lawyer Eric Silwamba, Jalasi and Linyama Legal Practitioners in Zambia.

Dentons Africa chief executive Noor Kapdi told Legal Business: ‘We collected client data and based on that data we were able to identify which jurisdictions our clients are most interested in and prioritise those jurisdictions.’

He pointed to client interest in the oil and gas resources of countries like Angola, as well as the infrastructure projects in countries including Mozambique. In Morocco, where the firm already had a representative office in Casablanca, the combination with Sayarh & Menjra will allow Dentons to practise local law.

Kapdi said he saw room for expansion in all those countries: ‘That’s just a natural consequence of combining with Dentons: those firms will become immediately identifiable by thousands of lawyers all over the world who have clients working in those jurisdictions. That drives growth.’

The latest mergers follow the firm’s combinations in Argentina and Uruguay, announced last week, and those in Honduras, South Korea and New Zealand earlier in the summer.

Dentons created a separate governance structure for its African business in 2017, spinning it off from its European regional management and appointing Johannesburg-based Kapdi to lead it. The firm has rapidly expanded in the continent adding Kenya, Mauritius and Zimbabwe to its existing offices in Egypt, Morocco and South Africa.

Looking at the next stages of the firm’s African expansion, Kapdi said Dentons was looking at Ethiopia, Ghana and Nigeria, where plans are already at an advanced stage, as well as Tunisia and Algeria.

Speaking to Legal Business earlier this year, Dentons’ chair Joe Andrew promised: ‘If you look at a map, any place we’re not, we are making an effort.’