The interchange of knowledge and expertise between lawyers at two dynamic, leading firms in Mozambique and Portugal is providing even greater value for staff, clients and beyond.
“The legal profession here in Mozambique has much space to develop and we hope to be on the frontline of that development,” says Zara Jamal, managing partner of JLA Advogados, a Maputo-based firm named African Law Firm of the Year (small practice) for 2020.
Along with investing in the future of the Mozambican profession, through JLA’s own growth and initiatives with a leading university and local bar association, Jamal and her team have been harnessing their ongoing relationship with Portuguese giant Abreu Advogados.
Although Mozambique has been part of the Commonwealth for the past quarter century, its history as a Portuguese colony and status as a civil law jurisdiction sets it apart from many of its neighbours in southern Africa and provides different challenges for lawyers and clients.
“The law and legal system has developed here on very much the same course as Portugal did 20 years ago,” says Jamal, who is a partner at both firms. “I think in terms of interpretation and application of the law, it benefits to have this experience of a sophisticated and developed jurisdiction which is very similar to what we have here in Mozambique.”
Jamal notes there are around 2,500 lawyers in Mozambique, serving a population of 30 million as well as international clients looking to invest in the country. While that number is double what it was several years ago, at one lawyer per 12,000 people, it remains far from the availability of legal expertise and access to justice that’s common in many other countries.
Portugal, comparatively, has nearly 30,000 lawyers for a population a third of the size.
The firm that’s now JLA Advogados has partnered with Abreu Advogados for more than a decade, a relationship that’s evolved from “good friends” to more formalised cooperation, say Jamal and José Maria Corrêa de Sampaio, a partner on the Mozambique desk of Abreu.
“We work together mainly with international projects, investment in Mozambique, where we team up lawyers from Abreu and JLA,” says Corrêa de Sampaio. “There’s a huge advantage because we can mix local knowledge with expertise in working with international projects.”
Recently, the firms advised on the $26 billion investment for development of an offshore LNG project in Rovuma Basin. Other landmark projects have included one of the largest solar power projects for northern Mozambique, and very large real estate developments.
Along with Jamal’s role as a partner in both JLA and Abreu, the firms’ collaboration runs to using the same technological tools and procedures, and exchange opportunities for lawyers between Lisbon and Maputo. “Overall, it facilitates that we want to establish the same values, the same communications, and the same style of service in both firms,” says Jamal.
This collaboration differentiates JLA and Abreu from international law firms doing border-spanning deals, says Corrêa de Sampaio. “We have specific knowledge and presence locally, and that is very important. We can provide something not a lot of law firms can provide.”
Winning African Law Firm of the Year was a thrilling recognition of JLA’s hard work over many years, says Jamal, and provided extra motivation amid the uncertainty of a global pandemic. For Corrêa de Sampaio, the future is bright for the two firms.
“I think the years that will come will be good years. Despite all the problems with the world, let’s keep on working, and going further together.”
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