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Firm Details

Werkmans Attorneys
+27 11 535 8000
The Central, 96 Rivonia Road, Sandton, 2196, Johannesburg, South Africa
+27 11 535 8600
English, German, French, Zulu, Tswana, Xhosa, Sotho and Afrikaans
JLA_Logo
(+258) 21 317 159
Rua dos Desportistas, nº691 Edifício JAT 6.1 13º Piso, Fracção Norte, Maputo, Mozambique
(+258) 21 317 172
Portuguese, English
FBL Advogados
+ 244 222 334 978 / 222 335 035
Rua dos Enganos, no. 1-8, Luanda, Angola
+ 244 222 393 273
Portuguese, English

Werksmans hosts lawyers from the latest LEX Africa member

The most recent firm to become a member of LEX Africa, in June 2023, is JLA Advogados from Mozambique. “Our partner firm in Angola, FBL Advogados, is a member of LEX Africa, and they introduced us,” says JLA partner Zara Jamal. 

Two JLA lawyers recently spent a week at South African LEX Africa member Werksmans in Johannesburg as part of the LEX Africa exchange program for lawyers and managers “I think it was a great experience for them, and we will certainly repeat that,” says Jamal. One of the JLA lawyers, Absalão Mapanze, an associate, was nominated and shortlisted for the Private Practice Rising Star Award at the Law.com African Legal Awards 2023, which was held in Johannesburg, South Africa during the exchange.  LEX Africa won the award for the best African Network/Alliance of the Year.

Pieter Steyn, director of Werksmans and chairperson of LEX Africa, arranged the exchange and says “one of LEX Africa’s key strengths is the close relationship between its member firms and their lawyers, some of which go back for 30 years.  The exchange program promotes these relationships and also allows young lawyers to broaden their horizons and experience outside their home jurisdiction”.

Secondment programmes benefit training and networking

In Mozambique JLA has tripartite agreements with students and the local university. “We normally promote secondment programmes with the students” says Jamal. “We generally send them to Portugal to provide them with international experience and allow them to meet new people and experience new working environments before joining our office in Maputo. We strongly believe that having this experience benefits their training and networking.”

Since joining LEX Africa, JLA has the opportunity to arrange exchanges with its fellow members. Werksmans was a logical choice for JLA, particularly because of the close business ties and geographic proximity between Mozambique and South Africa. “It is a one-hour flight to Johannesburg,” she says. 

Mapanze has been an associate at JLA for four years and has been responsible for their litigation team for about three years.  “The main issues I deal with in our practice are disputes arising from breach of contracts with commercial banks,” says Mapanze.

Customs and traditions are different

The first contact Mapanze had with Werksmans was earlier this year when he and some colleagues visited to promote a book JLA wrote on Mozambiquan arbitration law, says Jamal. “We made contact with the strong arbitration team at Werksmans’ Johannesburg office and wanted to build our relationship with them.” 

Mapanze and a colleague, Cecil Gobo, spent the weeklong exchange with Werksmans’ disputes team and experienced South African court proceedings to understand how trials are conducted in South Africa. “One thing that caught our attention that was a bit peculiar to us was that everyone who enters or leaves the court room must bow to the Judge,” says Mapanze.

Court procedures are more formal in South Africa as there is more of an Anglo-Saxon influence, whereas court proceedings in Mozambique are more influenced by Portuguese traditions, says Jamal. “That was quite an experience” says Mapanze, “because even though we are such close neighbours, the customs and traditions in court proceedings are quite different.”  

Other differences Mapanze says he found while visiting Werksmans was the use of technology. “For example, applications and affidavits can be sent to court by email and hearings may be attended via Zoom meetings, which was a new thing for us. In Mozambique hearings must be attended in person and applications must be filed on paper.” 

In Portugal, everything can be performed on a platform electronically, says Jamal. “But in Mozambique we are quite a few steps behind in our judicial system.” “However, in arbitration proceedings, applications can be in the form of email or other electronic means in Mozambique”, says Mapanze. “Arbitration is not as formal as judicial processes”, he explains `

Gobo says of his experience at Werksmans, “from a technical point of view it allowed us to learn about the workings of the South African judiciary as I had the opportunity to attend some hearings in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court and the Johannesburg High Court.  So I had contact with a legal system that is different from ours involving the common law, characterised by the rule of precedent.”

He says it is also important to highlight the experience he gained with virtual hearings, “which reflect the remarkable development of the South African judicial system which may inspire future reforms and flexibility in the Mozambican judicial system.”

Gobo also says that a highlight of the exchange was experiencing the day-to-day running of a major law firm like Werksmans, “this will certainly broaden our horizons and have an impact on our professional careers”. 

Jamal adds that case law does not have the same value in Mozambique as it does in common law jurisdictions like South Africa. “That’s one major difference with civil law systems like Mozambique.  

Steyn concludes that exposing young lawyers to other legal systems and their LEX Africa colleagues is a key focus and contributes to the strength of the Alliance. “They are our future leaders and need to have a cross border Pan-African vision”.

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