Show­cas­ing South Africa’s Black Law Firms 2017

The Star Early Edition - - COMPANIES -

AS TGR At­tor­neys con­tin­ues its steady growth path, its found­ing di­rec­tors are grate­ful for clients who have in re­cent years bro­ken out of the brief­ing pat­tern and ten­dency to as­sume that black law firms lack his­tor­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence.

Peter Tshi­sevhe elabo rates, “Their faith in us has al­lowed us to grow to 30 pro­fes­sional staff. We an­tic­i­pate even greater sup­port and rapid or­ganic growth and, to this end, we have made in­vest­ments to en­sure fu­ture ca­pac­ity.

“Mean­while, one of the ad­van­tages of a medium sized firm is that we are ag­ile, and able to scale quickly, if re­quired.”

He adds, “Too many black law firms are held back by an as­sump­tion that they lack his­tor­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, yet most of their lawyers trained and spent ex­ten­sive time prac­tic­ing law within the big firm en­vi­ron­ment, be­fore break­ing away to start their own firms.

“Dur­ing that ten­ure, they were trusted with big matters from large clients, but those same clients don’t seem to trust them once they move out on their own.

“The black lawyers don’t leave their ex­pe­ri­ence be­hind so the myth that their firms do not have the req­ui­site ex­pe­ri­ence is ab­surd. The ex­per­tise sits with the in­di­vid­ual, not a brand name.

He points to nu­mer­ous cases where senior white lawyers have bro­ken away to start a two- man firm, and their big cor­po­rate clients fol­low them: “This is preva­lent in the bank­ing and min­ing sec­tors par­tic­u­larly, but, when senior black lawyers with the same ex­pe­ri­ence move on, they are deemed to lack ca­pac­ity or re­sources.”

His co-director and co-founder Ma­todzi Rat­shim­bi­lani says, “Many new ar­eas of law have emerged in re­cent years. Th­ese in­clude com­pe­ti­tion law, B-BBEE, Pro­tec­tion of Per­sonal In­for­ma­tion, foren­sic and pro­cure­ment reg­u­la­tions, and many other reg­u­la­tory fields.

“All lawyers whether they work for big, medium or small firms have the same amount of ex­po­sure, and the old ex­cuses hold no weight.”

Both di­rec­tors em­pha­sise, how­ever, that TGR has worked hard to gain the sup­port of en­light­ened pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tor clients.

There is also a ten­dency among cor­po­rates to make a to­ken ges­ture by al­lo­cat­ing a small per­cent­age of their le­gal bud­get with B-BBEE firms.

Af­ter which they re­turn to their nor­mal prac­tices of brief­ing big firms, re­gard­less, of the qual­ity and ex­per­tise they have ex­pe­ri­enced.

Rat­shim­bi­lani adds, “There also a no­tion that if cer­tain per­cent of my bud­get should be spent with black firms, I should spread this be­tween a num­ber of firms.

“The prob­lem with this model is that there is no sig­nif­i­cant vol­ume to al­low for large or­ganic growth and an abil­ity to chal­lenge the larger firms di­rectly.

“Thus, in­di­rectly, and per­haps with­out in­ten­tion, this cre­ates a glass ceil­ing in terms of size for black firms.

“In the past, there was also of­ten a view that only the big firms had ac­cess to the re­search and in­for­ma­tion re­quired to serve clients ef­fec­tively.

“The on­set of the in­for­ma­tion age has changed this.

“To­day all lawyers have ac­cess to judge­ments, case law, pub­li­ca­tions and re­search.”

In TGR’s case, as with many other black law firms, its senior lawyers all have sig­nif­i­cant ex­pe­ri­ence in the big firm en­vi­ron­ment.

Tshi­sevhe says, “We hold our trainees and pro­fes­sional staff to the same high stan­dards and it is a priv­i­lege that our en­light­ened sup­port­ers, both in the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor, of­ten brief us on their most com­plex matters.

“This pro­vides our staff with qual­ity train­ing and ex­cep­tional skills.”

Founded in 2011 by then senior com­mer­cial lawyers, Tshi­sevhe and Rat­shim­bi­lani, TGR At­tor­neys is a 100 per­cent black-owned com­mer­cial law firm based Sand­ton.

The di­rec­tors speak of a unique un­der­stand­ing of the busi­ness, eco­nomic, so­cial, and po­lit­i­cal dy­nam­ics within the South African en­vi­ron­ment.

Its team in­cludes spe­cial­ist pro­fes­sion­als in the fields of Cor­po­rate and Com­mer­cial, Merg­ers and Ac­qui­si­tions, Bank­ing and Fi­nance, Com­mer­cial Lit­i­ga­tion, Com­pe­ti­tion and Real es­tate.

To­gether, they of­fer more 100 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in com­mer­cial law and re­lated fields.

The firm boasts diver­sity in terms of race and gen­der. Fifty-five per­cent of the pro­fes­sional staff are fe­male and more than 75 per­cent of the pro­fes­sional staff are black.

He adds, “We pride our­selves on ex­cel­lence, and this is show­cased, not only through the qual­ity of ser­vice we pro­vide, but also through our pro­mo­tion of fur­ther learn­ing.

“Among them our TGR pro­fes­sion­als boast a Doc­tor­ate, a char­tered ac­coun­tant, eight Masters de­grees, and 11 post-grad­u­ate diplo­mas and cer­tifi­cates across var­i­ous fields of law.

“Im­por­tantly, a num­ber are en­gaged in fur­ther stud­ies as this is strongly en­cour­aged.”

TGR was awarded a PMR Africa Award for Small and Medium law firms for three con­sec­u­tive years, and Chair­man Peter Tshi­sevhe has been in­cluded in the Best Lawyer’s awards in the merg­ers and ac­qui­si­tion prac­tice area.

The firm cur­rently serves Sta­te­owned en­ti­ties, fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions, JSE listed clients, as well as nu­mer­ous pri­vate com­pa­nies and pub­lic sec­tor en­ti­ties.

It also pro­vides le­gal ad­vice to, amongst oth­ers, the JSE listed com­pa­nies PPC, Arcelor­mit­tal, MTN, ABSA, FNB, Ned­bank, Telkom, and Sa­sol. Its paras­tatal clients in­clude Transnet, IDC, PIC. The firm is also sup­ported by pre­em­i­nent BEE com­pa­nies, such as Phem­bani, Wiphold.

Tshi­sevhe con­cludes, “In an en­vi­ron­ment, where there is strong con­cern around the qual­ity of le­gal pro­fes­sion­als, es­pe­cially black owned firms, we aim to be an ex­am­ple of eth­i­cal be­hav­iour, ex­cel­lence, qual­ity and pro­fes­sion­al­ism, which we strive for in all we do”

Rat­shim­bi­lani adds “TGR aims to be a flex­i­ble, ag­ile medium size black owned firm, com­pet­ing on a par with the large firms in terms of qual­ity and ex­per­tise.”

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