Guests from afar a field as Zimbabwe, Kenya, Nigeria and Mauritius turned out in their best finery and enjoyed a glamorous evening of good food and wine, entertainment galore and high-profile networking.
Local South African radio personality Sureshnie Rider hosted the awards, which saw Webber Wentzel take home African Law Firm of the Year - Large Practice and LNP Attorneys Inc, African Law Firm of the Year - Small Practice. Pieter Badenhorst, of AFGRI Group, won the prestigious General Counsel of the Year award, sponsored by Baker McKenzie.
Christo Els, senior partner at Webber Wentzel and partner in the firm’s corporate practice, described their award as “a great accomplishment,”
“It reflects our commitment to the continent and it’s a fantastic recognition of the extent and the depth of our experience on the continent”.
The firm, along with Linklaters, also won the African Network / Alliance of the Year award.
“And that’s really credit to the pan-African practice we are building,” said Els.
Nikita Lalla, Chief Executive of LNP Attorneys Inc, thanked the African Legal Awards.
“For a majority female-led firm, it’s quite new in Africa to be recognized and we’re quite grateful for that, for putting females on the map,” she said, “It’s also rewarding for us to have all of our sacrifices and hard work recognized. It’s amazing and we couldn’t have done it without every single person in the firm”.
Badenhorst was equally grateful for the honour of his award.
“It’s amazing. It was a tough category and the competition was top notch. I’m very proud of my team and of my company,” he said.
The charity partner for this year’s event was Save the Children, an international organisation which works to provide children around the world with equal access and opportunities.
Nyika Machendjedze is the organisation’s project manager for Children on the Move, which is aimed at improving the wellbeing of migrant children in South Africa.
He highlighted the important role the legal fraternity has to play in empowering these vulnerable children.
“Legally, the issue of access to services in South Africa remains a major barrier to the protection and care of migrant children,” he said, “In as much as we have policies, regulations and legal frameworks that provide for this access, it is always difficult to implement these policies, regulations and legal frameworks”.
Machendjedze said many of the organisation’s successes had been through legal interventions.
“In South Africa, now, a migrant child – despite their immigration status – is an adoptable child. And this is through legal litigation. We have also influenced the amendment of the Children’s Act in South Africa to now accept migrant children as children in need of care and protection,” he said.
Chief Executive for the CCASA, Alison Lee, took to the podium during the course of the evening and explained that the African Legal Awards, and other events like it, highlighted the essential role the legal fraternity plays in driving, mobilizing and building economies across Africa.
She described the evening as “a celebration of the collective achievements and abilities of the legal profession as a whole” and “a tribute to what we as the legal profession bring to the African community”.
“That being said, we must not rest on our laurels … We, the legal profession, must continue with the good fight. We, as colleagues, must strive to find ways to fulfil our commitment to the constitution while being truthful to our judicial oaths but also respectful of each other. We must never stop with our efforts to separate the good from the bad,” she said.
Africa Legal was proud to support the awards as media partner once again and was highly commended in the Innovation category jointly with UCT Law@work for their online course, Practical Corporate Governance for the Modern African Lawyer. To take the course, click here. To learn more about Law@work and Africa Legal’s 2020 learning programme click here.