Are you considering Africa? Asia? The opportunities for law firms are abundant.

It is well known that China is Africa’s largest economic partner with reportedly an approximate growth of 20 percent per year across all sectors bringing with it incredible opportunities for established firms as well as entrepreneurs. And, in particular, law firms.
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A Report by McKinsey in June this year, states that “since the turn of the millennium, Africa–China trade has been growing at approximately 20 percent per year. Foreign direct investment has grown even faster over the past decade, with a breakneck annual growth rate of 40 percent. Yet even this number understates the true picture: we found that China’s financial flows to Africa are around 15 percent larger than official figures when non-traditional flows are included. China is also a large and fast-growing source of aid and the largest source of construction financing; these contributions have supported many of Africa’s most ambitious infrastructure developments in recent years.”

It also states that findings suggest that there are more than 10,000 Chinese-owned firms operating in Africa today. This offers an abundance of opportunity that every law firm wanting to do business in Africa-Asia should take note of. And now.

In June this year, African and Chinese laws firms via Lex Africa and the Global Chinese Speaking Lawyers’ Association, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to further boost Chinese investment into Africa thereby improving the confidence of Chinese entrepreneurs already operating on the African continent. This will be in place for 7 years after which the outcomes will be assessed to see if it could or should potentially continue.

The legal environment is very different in Africa to China and the MOU is aimed at assisting Chinese firms during the process of entering the continent as well as if they should find themselves in any legal dispute while operating. European legal systems also differ from country to country across Africa so very often a clear understanding and specific assistance is needed which only comes with the expertise and experience established firms can offer. This yields further opportunity for local law firms who have an understanding of what is required to successfully do business in either Africa and/or Asia.

However, a very real problem often occurs with these opportunities in that finding the right legal hires or partnerships can be highly problematic. The new hire or partnership needs to have knowledge of, or certainly an understanding of, the environment in which they will be working – this environment is either literal as in a new country but also applies to the China/Africa working relationship that has its own nuances. Communication is an area that besides being one of the most important factors, if not the most, of doing business or even setting up a business in either, requires an ability to communicate and make things happen and very often firms will need to rely on their partnerships to do this – it therefore goes without saying that having the right partner at senior level makes all the difference.

Ideally businesses need all the MOU offers law firms but from an employment point of view. Partnering with a senior recruitment consultant with extensive experience in both Asia and Africa clearly offers a great advantage. This allows the new partnership to flourish and gives those involved the much-needed support and clarity they require. The sooner your new hire(s) or partnership is comfortable, the quicker they are able to hit the ground running and make use of the incredible opportunities available.

Recruitment experience in both markets on a senior level is extremely valuable as this can be the difference between hiring the right partners, managing the transition period and all it entails, setting up and establishing the literal office space and systems, guidance towards appropriate opportunities, education and ultimately whether the firm will be a success. Or certainly a success within a far shorter time period.

It is also extremely helpful to consider having lawyers from either continent work on secondment as combining this knowledge will certainly be advantageous and your recruitment partner should have the ability to facilitate this with the right lawyers who could make all the difference to the success of your venture.

We all know that doing business in Africa and China is fundamentally different. It requires local know-how of both and certainly all the right partners in your corner to make it a success. And while there are, of course, already law firms who have made the move in combining these territories, there is still an abundance of opportunity for others and those considering this potential investment should never forget the importance of the human factor. This is the difference between success and failure in any business.

Posted by Rob Green

Rob Green is the CEO of GRM Search and has been in senior level executive search for nearly 15 years. He has lived and recruited on 5 continents including Asia and Africa. His focus has been on hiring C-Suite management and Partners of Law firms, as well as team moves, team structure solutions, and strategic staffing advisory services. GRM Search has offices in Asia and Africa and Rob splits his time between the two. Rob is also the co-founder of the IP platform by InterProvise, a predictive data analysis and modelling algorithm. IP is a pioneering platform that brings a machine learning solution to all facets of team structure and collaboration, benchmarking, hiring, business strategy and solutions to inefficiencies.

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