African corporate lawyering and globalization

Publication Type:

Journal Article


International Journal of the Legal Profession, Volume 22, p.226–242 (2015)



Influenced by processes of globalization and localization, many fields of social and commercial practice – including legal services – across Africa are undergoing rapid transformation. It should come as no surprise that these processes of globalization and transformation include the ongoing transformation of corporate lawyering. Lawyers from Johannesburg to Algiers – not to mention Khartoum and Ouagadougou – are experiencing and participating in rapid global change in their profession and everyday work. This article identifies some of the questions and issues that emerge from this process, as well as providing a vignette of the South African corporate legal sector and tentatively outlining the emergence of an African corporate lawyering field. It does so in order to propose a research agenda into the trends and potential pathways of growth in this field. It does so in four steps, moving from a theoretical frame to one of the Global South to a portrait of the South African jurisdiction and ending with an agenda for African corporate lawyering.

Law and Personhood

The assembling of a new set of South African and global citizenships has taken on new urgency and a new plurality twenty years after the supposed advent of freedom. Categories make persons and persons make categories, as Jones and Dlamini have recently pointed out. In the South African constitutional text – where the phrase ‘categories of persons’ is written – race is but one of sixteen categories on the formal list. The Constitutional Court has added more.  Indeed, the effort of desegregating publics now takes place without the freshness of new symbols and with potentially stale institutions. In the public sphere, some responses to this era of citizenship reformation harken back to earlier times – either to times of forward-thinking, to times of social-making, or even to times of separating. Other responses rest in a consumptive present or appear as mere promised rhetorical bridges into the future. In this project WISER will examine the new questions that scholars in law, society and the humanities are posing themselves and others. What are the complex fashions in which bounded enclaves and social categories are fraying and unravelling or reforming? How, if at all, are persons remaking themselves as citizens? At the same time that these questions pose themselves, new fields of play are emerging with the changing audiences of the fashion shops and the sports terrains as well as the changing forms and formats of affluence and the new middle class. The very concept of a person as well as their categorical boundaries may shift with the movement of blood, organs, and self-awareness.

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