Follow us

Leading global law firm Herbert Smith Freehills celebrates the fifth anniversary of the launch of its office in Johannesburg, South Africa.

  • The office has grown from a small team of two to more than 85 partners, lawyers and staff.
  • With 7 partners and 5 senior consultants and directors on the ground, the firm provides a full-service offering to its global and local clients, covering corporate, disputes, competition and finance.
  • The firm regularly advises JSE-listed clients, including 11 of the Top 40 companies. Some key examples of the firm’s clients include Anglo American, BHP, Harmony Gold, First Rand, Standard Bank and Bombela. 
  • We have successfully built a cross-practice team of 31 Alternative Legal Services (ALT) professionals, which has quadrupled in size in less than three years. 
  • Over 50 graduates have been trained through ALT’s innovative International Legal Development Programme, the first of its kinds in the South African market. The 18-month programme is designed for talented legal graduates to work on high profile global matters while being trained in process and tech-enabled legal service delivery. They will be prepared for the next step in their career through mentoring and coaching.
Ed Baring, managing partner of the Johannesburg office, commented: "Our investment in South Africa has surpassed our expectations. From our hub in Johannesburg, we have been able to expand our African business, providing clients across the Continent with access to exceptional legal expertise, combining the best of local and international experience.  We are especially proud to have been able to create over 85 jobs in South Africa since opening our doors in 2015, and to provide global best practice and experience to many young lawyers.”  
Over the past 5 years, the office has advised on over 1,500 matters. Selected mandates include:
  • Bombela (the preferred bidder and now concessionaire) on all legal aspects of the bid preparation for the Gautrain Rapid Light Rail PPP (the first light rail PPP in Southern Africa); then on the negotiations as preferred bidder, including all finance and project documents, as well as drafting and reviewing those documents
  • Absa Bank Limited, Nedbank Limited, FirstRand Bank Limited, and The Standard Bank of South Africa Limited (the lenders) on the the expansion, upgrading and improvement of the Beitbridge border post in Zimbabwe
  • Harmony Gold Mining Company Limited in relation to the acquisition of AngloGold Ashanti's Mponeng Mine (the world's deepest mine) and related operations in South Africa for circa US$300m
  • CFAO Group in relation to the acquisition of Steinhoff's Southern African auto dealerships division, one of South Africa's largest auto showrooms and a network of trucks dealerships with annual sales of more than 23 billion Rand ($1.6 billion)
  • Gartner Inc. in relation to its representation at the Nugent Commission of Inquiry in respect of consultancy services provided to SARS regarding the restructuring of SARS' IT systems
  • Afgri Grain Silo Company, a borrower, on the ZAR billion transaction involving the subscription of shares in the borrower, by FirstRand Bank Limited (acting through its Rand Merchant Bank division), and contributions of shareholder loans to the borrower by its shareholders
  • Acting for four banks in two international banking groups in the Competition Commission's continued prosecution of multiple banks on allegations of collusion in ZAR / US$ exchange transactions. 
  • the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as international legal counsel on the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources’ mineral law reform project 
  • a globally diversified natural resources company on disputes with the Government of Zambia including developing and facilitating an international advocacy strategy 
  • Government of Malawi in relation to the development and financing through a PPP model of the proposed 450MW Mpatamanga Hydropower Project funded by the IFC
  • Standard Chartered Bank and Standard Bank on a sovereign bridge loan facility of USD500,000,000 advanced to the Government of the Republic of Ghana (acting through its Ministry of Finance) to fund various infrastructure development projects and liability management in the Republic of Ghana as approved in its 2019 budget.


About Herbert Smith Freehills’ Johannesburg office

Supported by a number of South African partners who are recognised market leaders in their respective fields of expertise, the firm’s Johannesburg office advises inbound and outbound investors across a broad range of sectors and industries in the Southern Africa region and Africa more broadly. Herbert Smith Freehills provides South African and English law advice from Johannesburg, covering transactions across Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone Africa. The combined strength of the Johannesburg partners and the firm's other Africa specialists located across its international platform means the firm can provide a true on-the-ground pan-African offering.

Key milestones

October 2015: Launch of the Johannesburg office with two partners - energy and infrastructure finance lawyer Brigette Baillie and top mining lawyer Peter Leon 

May 2016: Rudolph du Plessis joined as a corporate partner 

February 2017: Competition partner Jean Meijer and project finance consultant Biddy Faber expanded the office offering. Meanwhile, finance partner Ed Baring relocated from Moscow to become the Johannesburg office’s managing partner

August 2017: Launch of ALT team in Johannesburg 

January 2018: Jonathan Ripley-Evans joined as Disputes Director, adding arbitration capability to the offering

August 2018: Cameron Dunstan-Smith joined the Corporate Crime and Investigations practice as Disputes Director

July 2019: Nick Altini joined as a competition partner, Ross Lomax as a corporate partner, Rohan Isaacs as a senior consultant in technology and privacy, resulting in a total of 13 appointments 

June 2020: Vanessa Kingsmill appointed Head of Alternative Legal Services in Johannesburg

About Herbert Smith Freehills Africa Practice

Herbert Smith Freehills has an unrivalled understanding of the African market derived from a deep track record acting on matters on the continent for over 40 years, and across all practice groups and industry sectors.  The Africa Practice is serviced by more than 180 partners from across the firm’s global network of offices, including over 80 lawyers from its Johannesburg office. The firm has Africa desks in each of its international hubs comprising lawyers who have experience in Africa and who work regularly with specialist Africa lawyers from elsewhere across the firm's network. Herbert Smith Freehills has worked on matters in all of Africa's 54 countries (covering French, English, Portuguese, Spanish and Arabic-speaking jurisdictions), and over 1000 matters in FY2019-20.

Media contact

For further information on this article please contact

Lydia Lam

Lydia Lam, Head of Communications, UK, US & EMEA