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Global brings support hub to South Africa

Global brings support hub to South Africa

Herbert Smith Freehills has revealed that Johannesburg is the next city where it will roll out the Alternative Legal Services branch of its business.

HSF’s Alternative Legal Service (ALT) business model has enjoyed success in a number of cities around the world, with groups in Perth and Melbourne established last year.

In September, the global firm also announced that it had recruited 13 PRC-qualified lawyers to commence HSF ALT operations in Shanghai.

HSF’s very first ALT hub was set up in Northern Ireland in April 2011, and the success of the firm’s 250-strong ALT group in Belfast has inspired a steady growth in new offices for key markets.  

This week the firm announced that it will build a new legal support team alongside its office in Johannesburg, South Africa.

HSF global head of ALT services Libby Jackson (pictured) underscored the pricing benefits that would flow from the firm’s new arrangement in South Africa. She said the move made sense, given the growth of the Johannesburg office in just over a year.

"By equipping our new ALT team in South Africa with the skills they need alongside the right technology solutions, we can offer clients a very low-cost way of tackling high-volume, document-intensive elements of their projects, complementing the high-end advice offered by the firm's lawyers around the world,” Ms Jackson said.

“The firm's office in Johannesburg has also rapidly expanded since its launch back in October 2015, with two partners. The firm's offering has now grown to six partners in just under two years,” she said.

The global firm plans to coincide the opening of new ALT office later in the year by launching a special program for South African law graduates. The 18-month International Legal Learnership Programme (ILLP) will be open to 20 people. HSF said the ILLP development training would offer a structured learning experience to the new ALT hires.

Commenting on the benefits to employment prospects in the local market, HSF’s Lisa McLaughlin said ILLP participants would be well placed to secure a candidate attorney position, or other roles in the legal sector.

The ALT services director in the UK, US, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, added that the services of the new office would ease the workload and efficiency of HSF’s Johannesburg office.

"We believe the introduction of an ALT team in South Africa will change the face of the local industry. Our clients will benefit enormously, not only through the realisation of value and savings but also because it frees up our core teams to focus on delivering support for more strategic high-value priorities,” Ms McLaughlin said.  

"In addition, this initiative further strengthens our commitment to assisting South Africa’s law graduates in securing leading, world-class training and work experience,” she said.

HSF said that the first group to be hired by its new Johannesburg outfit, five lawyers and 20 legal analysts, will be the first to benefit from the development program.

According to the firm, youth unemployment in the country is in a “critical state” with the overall national unemployment rate sitting at 27 per cent. HSF said that with a further intake of new ALT personnel planned in 2018, the ILLP program can help alleviate the issue in some way.

HSF has seven ALT offices undertaking document review, transaction support including due diligence, claims assessment, commercial contracts, funds repapering/specialist work, client technology services (including advisory and document review software) and asset management for real estate clients.

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