Elite Kenyan law firms set sights on big deals
6 months ago, 17 Apr 09:12
Kenya’s elite law firms have stepped up global partnerships as they seek to leverage on international experience in the race for lucrative corporate advisory deals in multi-billion-shilling infrastructure development projects. Coulson Harney, Hamilton Harrison & Mathews (HH&M), Anjarwalla & Khanna, Kaplan and Stratton, Iseme, Kamau & Maema (IKM) Advocates and Walker Kontos rule the corporate legal advisory deals. Kenya has, over the last decade, been a lucrative market on the continent for corporate deal-making, prompting the law firms to forge links with international firms to take advantage of economies of scales. Coulson Harney has enjoyed close links with Bowman Gilfillan, which traces its roots in Johannesburg since August 2008, while IKM Advocates has had ties with DLA Piper – a top law firm by revenue in the USA – since January 2010. Walker Kontos in October 2016 inked a partnership deal with Norton Rose Fullbright which has roots in the USA and the UK, with a presence in 33 countries across the world. Oldest law firm HH&M, Kenya’s oldest law firm founded in 1902, last month joined the fray after it signed a deal to formalise its 10-year “loose” relationship with world’s leading law firm Dentons, subject to regulatory approval. Insiders in the lucrative legal corporate advisory industry say many players are cranking up global collaborations with sights on mega pipeline infrastructure projects, largely in roads and electricity generation. Kenya enacted the Public-Private Partnerships Act in 2013, bringing in private sector in the development of infrastructure. The PPP contracts in the road sector – which account for single largest share of government’s development spend – are set to combine design, build, finance, operate and maintain framework. The risk under PPP projects is also transferred to the private investor who sources for own cash and recoups the same over the long-term through user fees such as tolls before handing the road project back to the State after agreed time. MORE: Big ticket deals earn lawyers top ranking More complex The PPP concept, unlike the previous design-and-build models under Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act 2015, makes their formulation more complex, building the case for indigenous law firms to tap global experience, head of Infrastructure Hub for Africa at KPMG James Woodward said. “While there is no lack of capability in the Kenyan market for local law firms to draft large complex contracts, long-term roads PPP contracts are nuanced and have never before been completed in Kenya,” Mr Woodward said. “One of the perceived shortfalls of the PPP approach is the potential for up-front time delays that can stem from local capacity constraints to deal with such complex procurement processes. “To manage this from the perspective of the legal profession, it is both prudent and practical for local law firms to partner with international firms. International firms bring decades of PPP legal corporate advisory expertise to these projects that can be leveraged by local firms when working in close partnership.” Partnership with global law firms, HH&M senior partner Richard Omwela said, will ...
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