The moves into South Africa and Morocco mark DLA Piper’s first on the ground presence in Africa, with an office in Casablanca already open for business and Johannesburg to launch by March 2016. The openings follow 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. After a decade operating as associated firm DLA Piper has hired Michael Whitaker, the former chief operating officer of Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, to oversee the opening of the Johannesburg office.
In Casablanca, DLA Piper has hired Clifford Chance counsel Christophe Bachelet to manage the office and lead the firm’s first assault on Africa. The Morocco managing partner, who has long worked in Casablanca, will be joined by two other lawyers to provide merger and acquisition, projects and disputes advice. The firm, which views Morocco and South Africa as two key business hubs as it seeks to put more boots on the ground in Africa, will use these offices to spearhead growth across its 15-strong associated law firm network. The offices will seek to service international and local clients.
Bachelet will work with Mehdi Kettani, a Moroccan partner admitted to the Casablanca bar, and counsel Mohamed Mahjoubi. Kettani joins from local boutique Kettani Associes, while Mahjoubi relocates from DLA Piper’s Paris office.
DLA Piper global chief executive Simon Levine said the openings are ‘the next steps in our plan to truly establish the DLA Piper brand across the continent’.
He added: ‘Morocco and South Africa are amongst the strongest economic bases in Africa for many of our clients. Our strategy is driven by the needs of our clients so it makes absolute sense for us to open our own offices in both countries. Having an office in Casablanca is crucial to the continued development of our business in Francophone Africa and establishing our own presence in Johannesburg will enable us to better serve our clients there and beyond.’