ENS CE Piet Faber. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
ENS CE Piet Faber. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

ENS, South Africa’s largest law firm, this yearincreased the number of lawyers it employed from 136 to more than 500.

CE Piet Faber said the company had been aggressive in moving into Africa and wanted to increase its interests in Durban and Johannesburg.

ENS wants to become the first fully integrated law firm in Africa other than in South Africa. Most law firms in Africa used networks or affiliates but did not have main offices in the continent, Mr Faber said.

"Our business is no different from any other market. We had an overtraded market in South Africa. We found we could get conflicts of interest, so we wanted to go abroad into Africa and become integrated. There is still some room for growth in Johannesburg and Durban but we are putting a big focus into Africa," he said.

He said the biggest challenge to doing business in Africa as a law firm was dealing with regulatory conditions.

"There is still this notion that the best way to protect local lawyers in Africa, is to keep foreigners out. We are working around it but of course it is not easy," he said.

ENS has no plans to go into Asia or South America yet.

"Overall, there is not much room in South Africa but we will look for opportunities. We are dominant in Cape Town but we are looking elsewhere in the country and in Africa," Mr Faber said.

ENS opened offices in Rwanda and Burundi this year, among other African countries. Uganda is on the cards.

Norton Rose, a competitor of ENS, last month opened an office in Tanzania to show its commitment to doing business in Africa.

It said it was "further increasing its commitment to the continent by opening a full Norton Rose office in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The office will focus on the financial institutions; energy; infrastructure, mining and commodities; and transport industry sectors in response to strong domestic demand and growing international investment."