Honouring the outstanding legal work undertaken by African lawyers, there were awards for law firms large and small across a range of crucial practice areas, warmly received by the online audience.
Pride of place in the overall awards, the African Law Firm of The Year award, was won by ALN Kenya- Anjarawalla & Khanna (A&K), the fifth time it has taken the award for large practices. In the small practice category, Mozambique’s JLA Advogados were recognised, out of an eight-strong field of nominees. Meanwhile, the Network/ Alliance of the Year award went to LEX Africa, which the organisation said left its members feeling delighted and proud.
The 2020 awards saw a new category, the Children’s Advocate Award, supported by charity Save the Children, for whom a charity auction was also undertaken, with Fasken winning the inaugural award, warmly welcomed by all at Africa Legal.
Practice area awards
Bowmans took home three awards, and were highly commended in four others, winning the competition team award, the highly-prized energy and natural resources team award, and the transport and infrastructure team of the year award for work undertaken on significant African mandates.
Chairman, Robert Legh, said the awards recognised the firm’s “‘one firm’ approach to helping clients with their most complex matters across the continent is delivering results”; the firm was highly commended in the African Law Firm of the Year award, being pipped to the post by A&K.
There were three awards for Webber Wentzel, meanwhile, as the employment law team of the year, litigation and dispute resolution team of the year, while its equity capital markets team took the M&A – ECM award. ENSAfrica, meanwhile won awards for IP Team of the Year, M&A Team of the Year, with associate Matthew Arrumm receiving the Most Promising Newcomer Award for his work in private practice.
DLA Piper celebrated its award as International Law Firm of the Year; while Baker McKenzie was recognised for the Best Use of Technology, being highly commended in two other areas. Afriwise, meanwhile, said it was “extremely excited” to have won the Innovation Award (Client/External) for the second year in a row.
Lighthouse Law won two awards, both the overall TMT Team of the Year award, which the judges said was “full of firepower”, and one for Innovation as a law firm; the Alternative Service Provider of the Year award went to Caveat Legal, with that firm also receiving the CSR award for its work in diversity, transformation and economic empowerment.
The firm said it had seen the opportunity for positive change back in 2011 - before the idea of NewLaw had gained any real awareness – and was pleased to receive recognition accordingly.
The environmental & renewables award went to Aluko & Oyebode; the property and construction award was gratefully received by Tiefenthaler Attorneys; and specialist law firm of the year went to Kenya’s Kiptinness & Odhiambo Associates, which thanked its supportive clients for their role in achieving recognition. Templars meanwhile won the banking and finance award.
The attendees also heard that Africa Legal, together with Law.com and ALM Intelligence would be surveying law firms to develop the Africa Top 50 survey, examining the commercial and geographical footprint of the 50 best African law firms, and ranking them accordingly.
In-house and Individual awards
There was double success for Alexander Forbes, which won the Legal Department of the Year - Large Team Award, while general counsel, Carina Wessels, won the General Counsel of the Year Award.
The Legal Department of the Year - Small Team prize went to Sun International (South Africa), whose head of legal, Annabelle Thomas, said she was “very proud of the hard work and sterling effort of each and every one especially during a period when the hospitality and tourism industry has had to really endure the test of time”.
The Most Promising Newcomer Award went to Phil Madzara, of RioZim, while Haruperi Mumbengegwi, African Legal Support Facility won the Rising Star award, naming him as one of the African general counsel of tomorrow, and warmly welcomed by the ALSF.
In the individual standings, the female Partner of the Year award went to Josèlynn Fember, name partner at J Fember Attorneys, while the male Partner of the Year was Kenneth Muhangi, managing partner of KTA Advocates, who was described as “formidable”, and was nominated alongside lawyers in several jurisdictions such as Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria. The Private Practice Rising Star Award went to Onyeka Ojogbo, Centurion Law Group.
The innovative ceremony won plaudits from all those viewing, but Baker McKenzie’s head of Africa, Wildu du Plessis, surely spoke for many when he said: "Winning awards for the work we do with leading organizations is especially rewarding in the current environment.”
He added: “As we celebrate African excellence we should keep in mind Africa’s unparalleled capacity to reinvent itself, as well the continent’s position of being able to develop its future without compromising its sustainability. These are essential elements in ensuring Africa's post-pandemic resilience, recovery and renewal."
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