Showcasing South Africa’s Black Law Firms 2017
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.”