Leading full-service law firm Webber Wentzel has been recognised as the best legal practice in the country for the 2019/2020 season. The accolade was granted by the SA Professional Services Awards sponsored by Sanlam and W. Consulting.

Christo Els, Senior Partner at the firm, received special commendation from the judges in the Law Professional of the Year category.

Professionals from various organisations were set to gather at a gala dinner in Montecasino Ball Room on the evening of 19 March 2020 to honour the best amongst them. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the SAPSA Awards were indefinitely postponed. The organisers of the event have subsequently undertaken to progressively announce the winners for the 2019/2020 edition prior to hosting a gathering for all finalists and guests. This marks the fifth edition of the Awards following a rigorous process of determining winners through strict criteria.

Janette Minnaar, the chair of the adjudication panel explained how the winners were determined.

“Individuals were judged based on a host of attributes including demonstration of leadership skills, changing of paradigms and innovation within the bounds of available resources. We also conferred a number of Lifetime Achievement Awards to deserving recipients who had served their professions faithfully for many years,” said Minnaar.

The firm awards were based on the following criteria – business growth, customer service, technical excellence, contribution to the community, contribution to the profession, transformation record and commitment to ethics and professionalism. The criteria were not equally weighted, a strong showing in one category was sufficient to put the firm above the rest.

Webber Wentzel was named African Law Firm of the Year (Large Practice) at the Africa Legal Awards 2019. The firm further impressed SAPSA judges with its transformation and diversity agenda having achieved 62% female and 59% black staff complement. Additionally, the judges really liked the idea of a professional services firm that is investing time and effort into entrepreneurship. The selection of start-ups and scale-ups to support through the Webber Wentzel Ignite Legal Incubation Programme was viewed as a very noble initiative.

“Christo Els’ received special commendation for his contribution to the formalisation of the firm’s association with reputable international legal organisation Linklaters,” the judges remarked. “A further example of great leadership is the Transformation Sponsorship Programme Christo introduced geared towards enhancing the retention of black professionals. That a record of participant progress is kept is indicative that the programme has measurable targets and the firm is walking the talk in implementing this initiative.”

Watch the Award announcement below: