The Top 10 African law firms by headcount were announced at the African Legal Awards, and now the full Africa Top 50 Rankings, released in partnership between Law.Com International and Africa Legal, are available.
This year’s rankings, which look at firm-provided data from 2021, see three new entrants to the list. They reached the threshold for admission either through organic growth, mergers or alignment with the criteria to be considered a single firm for the purposes of the rankings. The new entrants are ALN (sixth place), CMS (19) and Barnard Incorporated Attorneys (tied for 47).
Firms which made both the 2021 and 2022 rankings grew on average by 7.78 fee earners in this period, compared with a growth rate of 7.5 from 2020 into 2021.
The firm with the highest growth rate across the last three years’ of rankings is Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr which has added 120 lawyers to its ranks since 2019, followed by Dentons which grew by 116, and Asafo & Co which employed 129 lawyers across 2021 compared with an average of 70 across 2019 – thus adding 59 lawyers to their staff complement.
Just nine firms which have made the rankings since 2019 are now smaller than they were in 2018.
Looking at percentage growth rates, White & Case stands out as a strong performer, having more than doubled their Africa headcount since 2019 (30). As of 2021, they host 75 lawyers in their African offices – a growth rate of 133%.
Firms in the 2022 rankings operated offices in an average of 2.8 different African jurisdictions in 2021, ranking from DLA Piper Africa with offices in 20 jurisdictions, to the 30 ranked firms which operate offices in just a single country.
Ranked firms employed an average of 108.68 lawyers across 2021, with the single largest firm being ENSAfrica with 470, and the smallest being FBL Advogados with just 22 fee-earners.
South African firms continue to dominate, with six of the top ten being headquartered in Johannesburg. In total, sixteen South African firms made the Top 50 this year. Firms recognised as “international” comprised the next largest cohort, with 11 making the grade for the 2022 rankings. This was matched in number by 11 Nigerian firms, with Olaniwun & Ajayi the largest of these (117 fee earners) and Ajumogobia & Okeke the smallest (28 fee earners). Kenya, Egypt and Angola each have three of their law firms in the 2022 rankings, with one-a-piece from firms headquartered in Ghana, Canada and Mozambique completing the list.
In total, 5 434 lawyers were employed within the Top 50 firms in 2021, up from 4 289 in 2019 – an increase of over 1 000 lawyers, indicating both strong development and consolidation within Africa’s largest law firms.
For the full Africa Top 50 2022 rankings click here.
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