Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the deep commitment that Clyde & Co had made over many years in East Africa made it a natural next step for leading Kenyan firm Kangwana & Co to formally associate with the global giant, says Jared Kangwana Jr.
“Most important to me was the approach the firm was taking with respect to Africa – it’s different to what you’d see with some international firms,” says Kangwana. His firm had worked for a few years on various matters with Clyde & Co’s East Africa corporate/M&A team, led by Michael Strain, before the firms’ relationship became a formal association a year ago.
This “getting to know you” period helped both firms, by strengthening their relationship and their offering to local and international clients. Kangwana gave the Clyde & Co team a deeper understanding of the Kenyan market, and he in turn witnessed their entrepreneurial culture and “diverse...very strong and globally recognised practice areas.”
“We’ve built a pretty successful business in Tanzania and were doing work elsewhere in the region,” says Strain. “Opening something in Nairobi was just the natural next step, not just for us as a firm but also our clients. Our existing East Africa clients almost all have operations in Kenya, and we’re seeing huge growth in interest in the region from our multinational clients – particularly out of the Middle East. Kenya tends to be a multinational’s first stop when they’re investing in East Africa.”
The vital thing, says Strain, is to build a trusted partnership, as lawyers and for clients.
“For us as a global law firm, we have international clients and groups who we’ve built up relationships with for 20- and 30-plus years. People want a trusted partner when they are trying to do difficult things in difficult places,” Strain explains.
The formal association between Kangwana & Co and Clyde & Co offers clients just that.
“Effectively it’s that international law firm expertise and responsiveness and proactivity, but coupled with the local understanding, knowledge and experience,” says Strain, who has now been based in East Africa for almost ten years. “We actually think it’s a really unique selling point.”
Kangwana agrees, noting that the different approach Clyde & Co has taken in Africa compared to some of its peers particularly appealed to him.
“Michael and his team have really grown and established a strong corporate and M&A practice in East Africa, all of which worked for me from the Kenyan perspective. While we’ve seen other international firms playing in the area, that’s more of a light touch approach and with the Clyde team it was a very targeted, focused, and deliberate approach.”
Both Kangwana and Strain see a lot of opportunities throughout Africa in the years ahead, and a great need for world-class legal advice that’s attuned to the realities of the local market.
“We as a firm at Clyde & Co are extremely committed to the African continent, and we’re looking very, very closely at other ways to expand and grow,” comments Strain. “We see what we’ve been able to achieve with Jared and his team in Kenya as a great example of how we want to build these trusted partnerships and do things successfully and slightly differently.”
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