Herbert Smith Freehills is set to extend its alternative legal services (ALT) business to Johannesburg, in South Africa. Expected to launch later this year, the business will be housed in the firm’s existing Johannesburg office. It will combine a mix of legal expertise, process efficiency and technology to handle high-volume or document-intensive work more efficiently and cost effectively for clients.

The launch brings Herbert Smith Freehills ALT business to over 400 lawyers and  follows recent ALT openings in Shanghai and Melbourne. The other offices are in Belfast, where the ALT business began, London, Sydney, Perth and Brisbane.

The new South Africa team will initially be staffed by around five lawyers and 20 legal analysts, who will be the first to take part in a new International Legal Learnership Programme (ILLP), launched alongside the opening of the Johannesburg ALT business. The 18-month programme will offer up to 20 legal graduates the opportunity to gain employment and work experience through a structured learning and development programme.

Taking part in the ILLP, participants will be encouraged to develop client and commercial skills, increase their technical capability and improve their personal leadership qualities. They will also have the opportunity to work with the firm’s disputes, corporate and finance practices, alongside partners and associates across the firm’s international network giving them exposure to global clients.

Participants completing the programme will gain a deeper understanding of legal processes and a stronger CV, therefore increasing their chances of securing a Candidate Attorney position, or other roles in the legal sector, in the future.

With South Africa’s unemployment rate currently at 27%, and youth unemployment at a critical state, and with a further intake planned in 2018, it is hoped that the new ILLP programme will go some way to alleviating this issue.

The South Africa based team will be led by Lisa McLaughlin, Director, ALT UK, US & EMEA.

Libby Jackson, Herbert Smith Freehills partner and global head of ALT, said: “The demand for our ALT services is continuing to grow and it is important that we keep investing in innovative solutions for our clients, to ensure they are receiving the most cost-effective service possible.

“By equipping our new ALT team in South Africa with the skills they need alongside the right technology solutions, we can offer clients a very low cost way of tackling high volume document-intensive elements of their projects, complementing the high-end advice offered by the firm’s lawyers around the world.”

Lisa McLaughlin added: “We believe the introduction of an Alternative Legal Services team in South Africa will change the face of the local industry.  Our clients will benefit enormously, not only through the realisation of value and savings but also because it frees up our core teams to focus on delivering support for more strategic high-value priorities.  In addition, this initiative further strengthens our commitment to assisting South Africa’s law graduates in securing leading, world-class training and work experience.”