Just 18 months old, this multi-award winning South African-based law firm has been solidifying its reputation as a leader in certain niche markets. Much of the company’s success can be linked to the 26 niche practice areas they cover, with the welfare of animals – both domesticated and wild – being high on the agenda.
Rui Lopes, the firm's managing director, is an expert when it comes to the law regarding these vulnerable species. “My passion to protect wildlife is driven by the fact that animals are, unfortunately, one of the most defenceless and marginalised components of our society,” said Lopes.
With South Africa being the third most biodiverse country in the world, Lopes believes more should be done to safeguard the fauna. Given the country’s very extensive environmental legislation regarding animals, he says a simple solution would be to properly enforce compliance.
Another distinct sector that the firm can advise on is the area of cannabis law. “There will be plenty of new and creative business ideas surrounding the use of cannabis that will still require sound legal advice before launching to ensure they are compliant with the legislation,” he commented.
Another area Lopes Attorneys focuses on is the tourism industry, one of the largest and most profitable sectors in South Africa. “We believe that our firm caters to what is undoubtedly one of the biggest contributors to the tourism industry – the safari/game viewing industry. Our firm is highly specialised in the legislation and regulations that pertain to their most important assets, the animals. If these tourist attractions are not compliant with all of the applicable environmental legislation and regulations, then they cannot operate.”
Specialist firms, like the one headed by Lopes, come with both advantages and risks. “When you specialise you are able to provide your target market with a superior value proposition over companies that generalise in a related field. Another advantage would be better networking – the company is more visible and easier to notice because they specialise in specific work,” he noted.
On the downside, Lopes says there is often a narrow market, meaning there are only certain ways to build your practice.
“The business will be reliant on the market forces. This creates risk; it becomes hard to diversify and protect the company. Growth and recruitment could also present a challenge. Expansion becomes difficult because there won’t be many experts, so you would have to recruit more junior staff and train them.”
As a way to mitigate against this, Lopes Attorneys’ partnership with Legal Netlink Alliance expands their reach to more than 35 countries globally.
Ultimately, lawyers who specialise in niche services are able to provide quality work that holds value as they are focused on specific types of laws. An example of such work, says Lopes, is the firm’s successful litigation against a South African government minister in which they interdicted the hunting of leopard, black rhino and elephant for trophies.
“The key to achieving this successful interdict was our in-depth knowledge of environmental law that allowed the firm to construct an argument that included many persuasive factors which had never before been considered by the courts,” said Lopes.
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