Baker McKenzie

Baker McKenzie won the award for Best Use of Technology, as well being highly commended for the Banking, Finance and Restructuring Team of the Year award and the Children’s Advocate Award at the African Legal Awards held virtually on Thursday, 17 September. The awards recognise exceptional achievement in Africa’s legal sector.

Baker McKenzie’s Head of Africa, Wildu du Plessis, comments, “Winning awards for the work we do with leading organisations, our multinational clients, is especially rewarding in the current environment. Post-COVID-19, our key enablers of innovation and integration will continue to assist us in guiding our clients in the continent. Our strong local relationships with clients, institutions and local partners have never been more important and we believe these synergies will make the difference in the short and medium term.

“As we celebrate African excellence, we should always keep in mind Africa’s unparalleled capacity to reinvent itself, as well the continent’s privileged position of being able to develop its future without compromising its sustainability. These are essential elements to ensure that the continent is able to be resilient, recover and renew itself in a post-pandemic world,” Du Plessis says.

The Firm won the Best Use of Technology award for its deployment of the eBrevia contract review platform, an artificial intelligence contract analysis system. The system was used in contract reviews for several due diligence exercises across Africa, which substantially reduced the cost and time taken to complete initial stage review, and allowed expedited key risk area analyses as well as identification and allocation of review documents, culminating in efficient project management. This resulted in an approximate 90% time saving in initial phase reviews and substantially reduced client costs, an especially pertinent issue in difficult economic conditions.

“With the increased emphasis on the digital economy, clients require their lawyers to have a forward-thinking approach to innovation and offer access to cutting edge digital tools and thinking. Law firms must also demonstrate flexibility in their approach, focusing on efficiency and the client experience to ensure smarter ways of working. We are delighted that the implementation of this innovative solution has been recognised in this way,” says Morné van der Merwe, Managing Partner at Baker McKenzie in Johannesburg.

The Firm was highly commended for the Children’s Advocate Award, supported by Save the Children. The firm works closely with the Consortium for Street Children’s network of grassroots practitioners, civil society organisations and researchers on the most effective ways of supporting street children. The multi-jurisdictional team was involved in coordinating the Legal Atlas for Street Children project, mapping and researching substantive laws and policies in this regard, in almost every country in the world, including almost 40 countries in Africa.

The Firm was also highly commended for the Banking, Finance and Restructuring Team of the Year award for a cross-border transaction advising Bank One Limited (Bank One) as arranger and swap provider on a USD 30 million USD/local currency swap with the Reserve Bank of a southern African country (Reserve Bank) and a participation agreement syndicating the transaction with I&M Bank PLC (a shareholder of Bank One). Under the terms of the transaction documents, the swap is collateralised by local government bonds, which is returned to the Reserve Bank upon the termination of the swap. The documents are structured for potential repeat transactions and as such effectively create a USD/local currency swap programme which the Reserve Bank can use to meet its USD funding needs on an ongoing basis. The speed of execution and smooth syndication of this innovative transaction can be used as a model for other entities with similar funding needs.

“Our clients need assistance as they build their immediate COVID-19 resilience, guidance as they forge ahead with their recovery, and direction on their next move as they renew their operations in a post-pandemic future. They need a new kind of lawyer who can partner with them, using on-the-ground knowledge, innovation and expertise to understand individual markets, gather regulatory intelligence, solve challenges, ensure fluent cross-border compliance, and identify new opportunities,” adds van der Merwe.

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