The Legal Activities and Services report examines the domestic legal sector, focusing on current conditions and trends. Factors that influence the success of the sector including the rapid introduction of new legislation and the growing need for company compliance are also discussed. The ‘Big Five’, Bowman Gilfillan, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr (CDH), Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs (ENS), Norton Rose SA, and Webber Wentzel are among the 25 companies profiled in the report. Also profiled are Werksmans and Adams & Adams, both increasingly notable firms, and Spoor & Fisher, which in 2017 was awarded “Intellectual Property (IP) Law Firm of the year in South Africa” for the third year running.
Legal Activities and Services
In the South African legal sector there are currently 25,035 attorneys practising at a total of 12,373 law firms. The number of practising attorneys has increased by 42% since 2006 and the number of law firms and advocates, while not growing as quickly, has evidenced a steady upwards trend over the past decade. Despite these increases, the sector remains significantly over-supplied with regards to legal graduates looking to enter the profession. On average some 1,800 new attorneys and between 100 and 200 new advocates begin practising law each year. By contrast, first-time student enrolment in legal degrees stood at more than 7,000 in 2016 and an average of 3,900 students graduate with an LLB annually.
An Increasingly Competitive Sector
The legal services sector, with an estimated value of R29bn per annum, has become increasingly competitive while the Legal Practice Act, scheduled to come into effect in 2018, is set to fundamentally change the structure of the sector. The market for legal services is also being affected by globalisation. As large multinational clients do more of their business around the world, and across legal jurisdictions, an increased demand for globally active law firms with expertise in many countries has emerged. This and other trends are being driven by technological advances, and stakeholders predict that recent developments such as the disruptive practice of legal process outsourcing (LPO) and the emergence of so-called “virtual” law firms could have serious consequences for the future of the sector.