The firm is represented in 20 countries on the continent and double that across the globe. Understanding the nuances that come with cultural difference is what has seen it take root and grow in Africa and what saw it named International Law Firm of the Year at the 2020 African Legal Awards.
In the podcast Africa Legal’s Tom Pearson speaks to Sarah Wilson, head of marketing and business development for the Middle East and Africa and consultant, Patricia Fokuo, about how the firm’s approach has enabled it to gain this strong foothold and respected reputation in such a diverse environment.
Some countries in Africa do intimidate some clients, Patricia explains, but robust partnerships with local firms and an indepth understanding of the laws and regulations of the country where they are doing business, coupled with insight into regional idiosyncrasies, makes legal challenges manageable.
DLA Piper is a Swiss Verein, Sarah says, meaning its members are made up of independent law firms that are not themselves part of DLA Piper but which work under the auspices of the firm. It means that strong relationships, joint learning, capacity building and excellent communication are fundamental to the firm’s success.
“That is why with Covid we have had to relook at our marketing and business development approach and, I have to say, there are positives to what has happened.”
New technology has meant the roll-out of new virtual platforms and within a short time a diverse global community is now suddenly able to be in one virtual room. While there is no replacement for in-person meetings, this way of working and meeting is more cost effective while still enabling a deep level of interaction and camaraderie.
“And it has allowed us to really challenge our carbon footprint,” she says.
Patricia draws attention to the inevitably of Africa expansion for the global business community in coming decades and that there is already a growing choice of excellent legal services. The advantage of working with firms under the DLA Piper umbrella is the access to an international network of expertise coupled with a deep local knowledge, she says.
“African countries offer great markets and, with the right legal support, the region is no different to any other.” Patricia uses a wonderful idiom, “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together,” to stress the importance of being part of a strong legal community. It is an idiom that explains, in a nutshell, why DLA Piper, has become the big name of multinational legal support in Africa.
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