CMS is a huge law firm; it has 8 000 staff and operates in 45 countries with 80 offices globally. But in the context of a massive continent like Africa – a place of great contrasts, different jurisdictions and distinct legal systems – raising awareness of this historical practice is important.
Coetzee, an infrastructure and energy finance partner who heads up the global Africa practice at CMS , notes that while the firm has been advising clients there for more than 50 years, there is a need for greater exposure of their offerings. “We are starting to tell more people about who we are,” he says, “to make it work better together.”
With Coetzee’s personal practice focusing predominantly on energy and infrastructure, and a specific interest in climate change, he offers a thoughtful analysis on why some African countries lag behind in their ability to move towards renewable energy sources.
He names lack of funds as the core problem, with politics, infrastructure and procurement, being some of the other hurdles to realising the energy transition. “In some places the procurement regime is not necessarily developed, so this is where international firms like CMS come in and assist with looking at the procurement programme.”
The conversation pivots back to the firm’s key statement: “Law Tax Future”, and Pearson asks which one of those best describes CMS in Africa.
Coetzee acknowledges that while tax has been a huge underlying pillar for the practice, in particular across francophone and lusophone Africa, the most important of these three is “Future”.
He foresees scope for growth in future trade finance, fintech, payment services platforms, digital infrastructure, telecoms, data centres, cyber security and data processing among others.
The discussion wraps up with a look at the firm’s future targets. These include legal tech, developing AI to assist with the delivery of cost effective legal services, expanding the firm’s legal collaboration platform and the provision of targeted legal services assistance to start-ups.
“We are looking to deliver value for clients by moving into future-facing areas that will assist them, and make things easier for them around particular types of work that we can offer.”
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