Stephenson Harwood kicks off Africa secondment programme

Stephenson Harwood is adding to its Africa expertise by starting a programme of sending associates on secondment to independent firms on the continent.

Litigation associate Charlotte Welsh became the first Stephenson Harwood lawyer to go on secondment to Africa, spending six weeks at Kenyan firm JMiles & Co. Whilst in Nairobi Welsh worked on matters ranging from international trade arbitration to fraud investigation and disposal of toxic waste along Africa’s coastline.

Stephenson Harwood has previously hosted 18 lawyers from African firms in Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda and from the State Oil Company of Nigeria, but has never before sent one of its own associates to the continent.

The firm’s Africa group head Kamal Shah said the knowledge gained from spending time on the ground in Africa was invaluable.

“They come back hugely more aware of how things actually happen on the ground, rather than just being told by me and reading about it,” Shah told The Lawyer.

He said the firm hoped to send another two associates on secondment to Africa this year, most likely to Egypt, Kenya or Nigeria. Secondments would be sought in-house as well as with local firms.

Those given the chance to go on secondment would be lawyers who had worked on Africa-related deals and cases in the past or had demonstrated an interest in African work.

JMiles senior associate Elizabeth Karanja said: “Having Charlotte with us was great. It was interesting to see our work from an outsider’s perspective and we managed to share invaluable experiences and ideas.”

Karanja added that JMiles was also developing a secondment programme.

A number of international firms are currently ramping up their profile in Africa through closer relationships with local outfits, training initiatives and other projects, including Baker & McKenzie (25 November 2013), DLA Piper (17 January 2014) and Eversheds (23 January 2014).

Meanwhile Stephenson Harwood is also now pursuing a strategy of bringing lawyers from overseas clients into the firm on secondment. Shah said the firm hoped to ramp up this programme in the future.

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