After a six-year relationship, Hogan Lovells is restructuring its legal practice in South Africa following a strategic review of its business in the country.
Hogan Lovells began its involvement in South Africa in 2013 with a combination with the then Johannesburg based law firm Routledge Modise (established c.1892) which adopted the Hogan Lovells South Africa name but remained operationally and financially separate.
With the restructuring, Hogan Lovells will establish its own fully-integrated law firm in Johannesburg focused on corporate, finance, and natural resources while the current Hogan Lovells South Africa will continue as an independent law firm operating under a new name and providing a wider full suite of legal services. A group of five partners and approximately 15 other lawyers will make up the new Hogan Lovells, joining from the current one. The current Hogan Lovells South Africa will then comprise 21 partners and 50 other lawyers. There will be a transition period of approximately two months as the new Hogan Lovells is set up and the current Hogan Lovells South Africa positions itself to continue operating independently under its new name in the market. Both firms will continue to work from separate offices in the landmark 140 West Street building in Sandton. A Hogan Lovells spokesperson stated, “This is a successful outcome for everyone involved. Although the last six years have worked very well, we all agreed that the previous arrangement where the firm in South Africa was operationally and financially separate and offered a wider range of services was not what we wanted for the future. Having a new smaller and more focused Hogan Lovells office in Johannesburg combined with the current larger firm being able to set its own strategic direction, name, and practice made a lot of sense to both firms.” The statement continued, “The discussions have been very amicable and there will be a transition period from now for approximately two months while we set everything up and make the necessary arrangements. We are talking to our clients about our plans and have made it clear that there will be a seamless transition and no disruption to their work as we make these changes. It is very much business as usual.”
The South Africa office has attracted criticism and media comment over the past year, including its work for the South African Revenue Service (SARS) leading to criticism by a senior UK politician that the firm was complicit with corruption and money laundering in the country. Lord Peter Hain, a long-time campaigner on Apartheid and South Africa, called on the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to withdraw its authorisation as a recognised body. However, the SRA is not taking any action against the firm, and the South African Law Society found no evidence of misconduct by the firm.
No change at GBSC
The Hogan Lovells Global Business Services Center (GBSC), which also operates in Johannesburg and has around 200 employees providing support to Hogan Lovells in areas such as finance, technology, marketing and human resources, is unaffected by this decision. It is already a fully integrated part of Hogan Lovells. According to a spokesperson for the firm, “Our GBSC represents a significant commitment to the South African economy and we will continue to expand the services it provides to the rest of Hogan Lovells around the world.”