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DLA Piper takes rainmaker from Linklaters alliance firm for South Africa managing partner role

DLA Piper has appointed Webber Wentzel corporate partner Johannes Gouws as South Africa managing partner.

Gouws will lead the firm’s push in the country after it launched its first African offices at the end of last year in Casablanca and Johannesburg. He will work closely with Michael Whitaker, chief operating officer for South Africa, to drive the firm’s strategy in South and sub-Saharan Africa.

A well-regarded lawyer in the local market, Gouws was part of Webber Wentzel’s Legal 500 tier one ranked M&A team, and regarded as ‘extremely professional.’

Gouws has had a string of management positions at Webber Wentzel, which has an alliance with Linklaters. Prior to his time at Webber Wentzel, Gouws was general counsel at South African bank Absa, where he led one of the biggest in-house legal teams in the country.

Gouws began his career at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr legacy firm, Hofmeyr, where he also served on the executive committee and led the firm’s corporate practice. DLA ended its alliance with Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr last summer in a move designed to strengthen its local brand in the region. The opening followed a stark warning from DLA Piper to its associated firms that failure to integrate with the rest of the network would result in axed relationships and a competitor instead of a friend.

Gouws, who specialises in cross-border M&A, securities regulation and corporate finance said: ‘the South African legal landscape is evolving and DLA Piper will be a strong new force in the market’.

DLA Piper co-chief executive Simon Levine added: ‘We are committed to growing and developing our presence in Africa to provide our clients with the specialist legal services they need in a key growth market. Johannes is an extremely well-regarded and experienced practitioner and is the ideal person to establish and lead our office in Johannesburg.’