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Law firm in South Africa

LEX Africa member firm Werksmans Attorneys is a top performing corporate and commercial law firm in South Africa

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Firm Overview


Established in the early 1900s, Werksmans Attorneys (Werksmans) is a leading South African corporate and commercial law firm serving multinationals, listed companies, financial institutions, entrepreneurs and government. Operating in Gauteng and the Western Cape, and connected to an extensive African network through Lex Africa, the firm’s reputation is built on the combined experience of Werksmans and Jan S. de Villiers, which merged in 2009. Werksmans’ more than 170 lawyers are a powerful team of independent-minded individuals who share a common service ethos. The firm’s success is built on a solid foundation of insightful and innovative deal structuring and legal advice; a keen ability to understand business and economic imperatives; and a strong focus on achieving the best legal outcome for clients.


Werksmans' full spectrum of legal services spans all economic sectors and business activities. These services are structured into two main business streams:
• Corporate and commercial legal services, providing contractual, transactional and regulatory services.
• Litigation and dispute resolution, focusing on litigation and alternative dispute resolution (mediation and arbitration).




Key contacts include:

David Hertz, Chairman
BA LLB (Wits)

Specialises in: | arbitration | mediation | alternative dispute resolution (ADR) | competition law, in particular specialises in unlawful competition | corporate law | corporate fraud | insurance | intellectual property | litigation relating to flotations/listings | stock exchange and public documents | mergers, acquisitions, management buy-outs and take-overs | Highlights | Consistently recognised in international ratings

Named as a leading lawyer in
Litigation by Best Lawyers International (2008 - 2010)
Dispute Resolution by Chambers Global: The World's Leading Lawyers for Business (2008 - 2011)
Commercial Litigation by the International Who's Who Legal (2007 - 2011)
Named as a recommended lawyer in Dispute Resolution by the Legal500 (2010)
Named as a recognised lawyer (2009 and 2010) and an endorsed lawyer (2011) in Dispute Resolution by PLC Which Lawyer

Pieter Steyn, Director
BSc (LAB MED) LLB (Wits)
LLM (Competition, Patent and Trade law) (Unisa)

Specialises in: African business and projects | cross border transactions | establishment of busiensses and joint ventures | competition law | merger control | cartels, abuse of dominance and other prohibited practices | commercial and corporate law | companies and close corporations | due diligence investigations | mergers and acquisitions | restructuring of corporate entities
share incentive schemes | private equity transactions | licence, distribution, manufacturing, procurement and supply agreements | joint ventures and partnerships | trusts | black economic empowerement | gaming law, including lotteries

Named as a leading lawyer in:
Antitrust by Best Lawyers International (2008 - 2010)
Competition by IFLR1000: The Guide to the World's Leading Financial Law Firms (2011)
Competition by the International Who's Who Legal (2001 - 2011)
Named by PLC Which Lawyer as a highly recommended lawyer (2007), a recommended lawyer (2008 and 2009), a leading lawyer (2010) and an endorsed lawyer (2011) in Competition/Antitrust

Roger Wakefield, Director
BA LLB (Wits)

Specialises in: administrative law | arbitration | mediation & alternative dispute resolution | technology law | competition law | construction law | cross border disputes and the enforcement of foreign judgments | private international law | intellectual property law | venture funds | trademarks & copyright law | white collar crime and corruption


On the Management Committee of Lex Africa
On the Management Committee of the Arbitration Foundation of South Africa
On the Management Committee of Africa ADR
Named leading lawyer in the specialities of Arbitration and Mediation by Best Lawyers International (2011)
Involved in the leading South African cases and authorities dealing with the enforcement of foreign judgments.
First litigation director to be appointed to the Board of Directors of a major client.

Firm Highlights

Werksmans has been recognised as a leading advisor in South African corporate and commercial law by a variety of credible international rankings organisations including:

• Best Lawyers International: Werksmans lawyers are recognised in the fields of Antitrust, Arbitration & Mediation, Banking, Capital Markets, Construction, Corporate, Finance, Health Care, Insolvency & Reorganization, International, Litigation, Media, Mergers & Acquisitions, Regulatory, Tax, Trusts and Estates
• Chambers Global: The World’s Leading Lawyers for Business: Werksmans is recognised in Banking & Finance, Competition/Antitrust, Corporate/M&A, Dispute Resolution, Intellectual Property, Media & Broadcasting and Tax.
• IFLR1000: The Guide to the World's Leading Financial Law Firms: Werksmans is recognised in Banking & Project Finance, Capital Markets, Competition and Mergers & Acquisitions.
• Legal 500: The firm is recognised in Banking and Finance, Corporate and M&A, Dispute Resolution, Intellectual Property, Labour and Employment, Mining, Projects and Infrastructure and Tax.
 PLC Which Lawyer: The firm is recommended in Banking & Finance, Capital Markets, Competition/Antitrust, Corporate/M&A, Corporate Real Estate, Dispute Resolution, Energy, Intellectual Property, Labour & Employee Benefits, Outsourcing/IT, Private Equity/Venture Capital, Restructuring & Insolvency, Tax and Telcoms/Media.
The firm’s achievements in M&A have been recognised in the following independent research findings:

• DealMakers: Werksmans is consistently recognised as leading adviser in the categories of M&A and corporate finance. The firm achieved an unsurpassed record of being recognised as the leading corporate law firm in M&As by deal flow for three consecutive years - 2006, 2007 and 2008.
 Ernst & Young M&A Review of Activity: Werksmans was recognised as the leading law firm in South African M&A by deal flow in 2006, 2007 and 2008 and was also top ranked by deal value in 2008. In 2009, the firm was acknowledged as the second most active law firm in M&A by deal flow. This research has since been discontinued.
• MergerMarket's South Africa M&A Round-up: For the past three years – 2008, 2009 and 2010, Werksmans has been recognised as South Africa's most active law firm.

Significant matters/transactions include:

Advised Xstrata South Africa (Proprietary) Limited on its offer to purchase Lonmin plc's entire issued share capital, £5 billion
Advised Telkom SA Limited on its unbundling of a 35% stake in Vodacom Group (Proprietary) Limited, R35 billion
Advised Edgars Consolidated Stores Limited on its acquisition by Bain Capital, R25,5 billion
Advised The Standard Bank of South Africa Limited and FirstRand Bank Limited (acting through its Rand Merchant Bank division) on the introduction of BEE equity participation in Sasol Limited and their arranging financing therefore, R25,4 billion
Advised FirstRand Bank Limited (acting through its Rand Merchant Bank division) and Nedbank Limited (acting through its Nedbank Capital division) as lenders to Richards Bay Titanium (Proprietary) Limited and Richards Bay Mining (Proprietary) Limited, R19 billion
Advised Citibank N.A. on a bridge loan granted to Turquoise Moon Trading 427 (Proprietary) Limited by Citibank N.A. and JP Morgan Chase, R10 billion
Advised British American Tobacco plc on its secondary listing on the JSE, R550 billion
Advised Pioneer Foods Limited on its listing on the JSE Securities Exchange, R6 billion
Advised the South African National Roads Agency Limited in respect of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project involving the construction and upgrade of the Gauteng freeway and the procurement of an open road tolling system, R44 billion
Advised Absa Bank Limited (acting though its Absa Capital division), FirstRand Bank Limited (acting through its Rand Merchant Bank division) and Vunani Capital (as co-lead arrangers) and the South Africa National Roads Agency Limited (as issuer) on the establishment of its South African Guaranteed Domestic Medium Term Note Programme and the subsequent issue of notes thereunder, R32 billion
Advised Shoprite Checkers (Proprietary) Limited on the proposed Brait Private Equity private equity buy-out (this did not proceed), R12 billion

Advised Reclamation Holdings (Proprietary) Limited and various shareholders on the acquisition by Capitalworks Private Equity SP GP (Proprietary) Limited and Old Mutual Life Assurance Company South Africa Limited of a 20% equity stake in Reclamation Holdings (Proprietary) Limited from various shareholders, R511 million
Clients include:

Multinationals, listed companies, financial institutions, entrepreneurs and Government

Practice Areas


With a formidable track record in mergers and acquisitions, banking and finance, and commercial litigation and dispute resolution, the firm is distinguished by the people, clients and work it attracts and retains.

Corporate / Mergers & Acquisitions

With a reputation for "getting the deal done", Werksmans Corporate / M&A team has been the driving force behind the firm's impressive credential as a legal powerhouse in South African mergers and acquisitions (M&A).

Changes in the legal and regulatory framework have added significantly to the legal complexities of M&A and other areas of commercial activity, and the team is adept at assisting clients in navigating these changes effectively.

Acting for clients in a variety of sectors - including mining, retail, telecommunications, banking and insurance - the team has in-depth experience in both public and private M&A work, as well as in private equity and international/cross-border transactions.

Werksmans has represented numerous South African and international clients engaged in takeovers, reverse takeovers, mergers, acquisitions, restructurings, hostile bids, privatisations and empowerment transactions.

Banking & Finance

The transactional and regulatory lawyers of Werksmans Banking & Finance team have led the way with complex transaction types and financial instruments, by facilitating ground-breaking transactions in both primary and secondary markets.

In the securitisation field, the team’s expertise remains unique. To date, only three synthetic securitisations have been undertaken in South Africa. Werksmans Banking & Finance lawyers were actively involved in all three of them.

In the debt capital markets field, the team advised on the first issue by a South African insurer of callable bonds that qualified as secondary capital for the issuer.

This trendsetting trait is also evident in other fields, for example leveraged and acquisition finance as well as private equity and public to private transactions.
Commercial Litigation & Dispute Resolution

This area focuses on litigation and alternative dispute resolution in the form of mediation and arbitration.

Werksmans reputation as having one of South Africa’s top litigation teams is underpinned by all of the key characteristics of an effective litigator: tenacity, analytical skill, a firm grasp of the issues at stake, a clear vision of the desired goal and a sound strategic and tactical plan of action. These attributes are combined with the intent to resolve matters as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The team is among the country’s largest and most experienced. Focusing on disputes that either reach the High Court or are resolved by arbitration, Werksmans is involved in many high-profile commercial litigation and arbitration matters in South Africa and internationally.

Other key practice areas include:

Banking & Finance | Business Rescue & Insolvency | Competition | Corporate/Merger & Acquisition | Employment | Environment | Forensics | Health, Pharmaceutical & Life Sciences | Intellectual Property | Investment Funds | Litigation & Dispute Resolution | Media & Communications | Mining, Energy & Natural Resources |  Property | Sport & Entertainment | Tax | Technology