Long-term relationships are all-important when breaking into the South African legal services market, a UK lawyer has advised on the eve of a Law Society-led delegation’s visit to Cape Town.

Kerry Underwood, senior partner of Hertfordshire firm Underwoods, who has been lecturing and practising in South Africa for more than 14 years, said: ‘Given the country’s history under apartheid, the African National Congress government is understandably careful about who it will do business with. It takes time to build up trust.’

He said there was great respect for the rule of law in South Africa, extending to the quality of legal services. ‘Unlike India, South Africa distrusts call centres. It wants careers for its lawyers, with the entire legal service carried out in the country,’ he said.

Law Society president Lucy Scott-Moncrieff is this week leading a delegation of lawyers to South Africa to explore business opportunities.

They will meet UK lawyers practising in the country and promote the solicitors’ qualification as a qualification of choice for global lawyers at an event organised jointly with the Law Society of South Africa and Cape Law Society.

The delegation, which includes Society chief executive Desmond Hudson, former Lord Mayor of London and magic circle firm Allen & Overy partner Sir David Wootton, and Society head of international Julia Bateman, will also attend the Commonwealth Lawyers Conference in Cape Town.

Scott-Moncrieff said: ‘The UK’s relationships with other Commonwealth countries are built on a shared heritage, but are constantly evolving. This mission will help to further develop these relationships. We are working hard to support UK law firms already working abroad or exploring international opportunities in developing their business.’

A delegation from the Bar Council is also attending the conference. Chair Maura McGowan QC said: ‘We welcome the opportunity to be involved in debates on significant issues affecting the whole legal profession, and to renew acquaintance with our colleagues from other jurisdictions.’