Herbert Smith Freehills to launch eighth alternative legal services centre in Johannesburg

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Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) is launching an alternative legal services centre in Johannesburg later this year, the firm’s eighth such base around the world.

The centre – which will open in late summer with five lawyers and 20 legal analysts – will offer legal process and technology services to clients, providing a cheaper and more efficient option for high volume or document-intensive work.

It will be housed in HSF’s existing Johannesburg base, which the firm launched in late 2015 with the hire of two former Webber Wentzel partners.

Global alternative legal services head Libby Jackson – who will be promoted to partner on 1 May – said: “In the last five years, South Africa has evolved into an ideal location for the alternative legal services network, and the timezone means it can act as a sister to the Belfast office and support our wider European business too. The key for all pieces of the business is combining the availability of the right talent who can undertake work for the price clients want.”

HSF is also launching an 18-month International Legal Learnership Programme in the office, which is designed for legal graduates. The programme aims to develop legal graduates’ client and commercial skills as well as improve their leadership capabilities. The new centre’s legal analysts will be the first cohort to take part in the programme.

HSF South Africa managing partner Ed Baring said: “There is a sufficiently large pool of graduates coming out of law schools that we can draw talent from, and we very much hope we can capitalise on our first-mover advantage. The idea of adding a whole range of training makes it a very appealing project and a lot of our senior lawyers and partners were keen to get involved in the programme.”

HSF opened its first alternative legal services business centre in Belfast in 2011. Last year, the firm launched centres in Shanghai and Melbourne, while in 2015 it opened a ‘pop-up’ centre in Perth. HSF’s alternative legal services team also operates in London, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.