Fresh market share information shows that four law firms with foreign roots beat rivals to most of East Africa’s mega deals. Walker Kontos, Daly and Figgis, Kaplan and Stratton (K&S), and Hamilton, Harrison & Mathews (HH&M) have had a firm grip on the corporate advisory services for most of independent Kenya’s history but appeared to have come under intense challenge from indigenous rivals since 2008.
The 2011 ranking of Kenyan corporate law firms by IFRL1000 shows that indigenous firms such as Iseme,
Kamau and Maema (IKM) Advocates, Muthaura, Mugambi, Ayugi and Njonjo (MMAN), and Mboya & Wangong’u Advocates struggled to break into the top league.
Others such as Murui Mungai & Co, Oraro and Company, and Njoroge Regeru & Company are no longer among the elite group.
Also dropping grades in the latest survey were the new kids on the block Iseme, Kamau and Maema Advocates and Muthaura, Mugambi, Ayugi and Njonjo, which had made a strong showing in recent rankings.
“The gap between upcoming indigenous law firms and the established rivals widened last year based on the ranking,” said a top commercial lawyer who did not want to be named for fear of being seen discussing colleagues. “It has to do with the talent they have acquired in recent years to deal with the specialised cross-border work that is steadily growing.”
The cream of Kenya’s corporate law is now made up of Walker Kontos and Coulson Harney — the 2008 break-away from Kaplan and Stratton that has doubled its market size in three years of operation. They join Kaplan and Stratton and Hamilton Harrison & Mathews, the seasoned players in the top league with colonial roots.
The list also includes Anjarwalla and Khanna, the only indigenous firm that regained its market leadership position after Kaplan & Stratton toppled it last year to become Kenya’s top corporate law firm.
This firm last year beefed up their talent with new layers in the race to clinch top dollar deals. Anjarwalla and Khanna hired seven lawyers from competitors including partner Dominic Rebelo from Daly & Figgis, which tapped UK trained partner in Shitul Shah along with an associate from a competitor.
Though there were fewer acquisition deals in 2011, the top firms benefited from major fundraising efforts including bank debt arrangement and right issues across the region.
Anjarwalla and Khanna advised Equity Bank on its Sh5 billion loan to City Hall, Kaplan and Stratton (Sh8.5 billion loan to Kenya Airports Authority by a French development agency) and Coulson Harney arranged Precision’s Air’s IPO in Tanzania).
Kenya Airway’s Sh20 billion rights issue went to HH&M while Walker Kontos advises IFC and South Africa’s Absa on a Sh8 billion loan to three local independent power generators.