African law firms reliant on international instructions are ‘unresponsive’, ‘overstretched’ and supported by ‘poor infrastructure’, a report based on interviews with international firms has concluded.
Despite this, African firms interviewed for the same report - ’African and international law firms; challenging relationships’ - believed they could handle more international instructions. A third of the fee income of the latter derived from such instructions.
The report’s author, Steve Blundell of management consultants Redstone, said: ‘Tensions remain as to whether the global firms are friends or foes.’
African firms preferred working with international firms that had established a physical presence on the continent, which had therefore developed an enhanced cultural understanding, Blundell added.
But he noted: ‘A better cultural understanding will not offset the widespread view that service standards offered by many African firms fall well short of what international firms and clients expect.’
Anecdotal evidence of poor service included incidences of UK and US law firms resorting to online message platform WhatsApp in an attempt to elicit a response from African lawyers. Law firms in Kenya (pictured: Nairobi) and Nigeria were deemed to have the worst service ethic.
Interviews with African firms revealed a marked preference for working with UK-origin firms, with Clifford Chance, Slaughter and May and Allen & Overy leading the list. Of US firms, only Baker & McKenzie and transatlantic tie-up Norton Rose Fulbright made a list of top-ten international firms.