A league of his own
This year Siyabonga Mahlangu, a director at Edward Nathan Sonnenberg (ENS), celebrates a milestone in his career - the merger of his firm Mahlangu, Nkomo, Mabandla and Ratshimbilani (MNMR) to ENS.
"We started talking to prospective law firms from August 2007 as search-for-merger partners. Our choice was ENS," said Mahlangu.
MNMR has come a long way from its conception to the merger.
"The need for a difference in the profession led to the birth of MNMR. We wanted to have a third generation commercial law firm that was different from those in the 1960's and 1970's, which mostly dealt with human rights. Post independence came and there were many people who had trained in the large law firms, especially in commercial law. Hence the need for third generation lawyers in the market," he said.
"So (Matodzi) Ratshimbilani and I started seeking young, black, like-minded lawyers and we met Ndumiso Nkomo and Nkuli Mabandla. We had three men and one lady, Mabandla, who was the head of legal at Baji Investments. She was charmed by the idea, hence the birth of MNMR in 2002 and we were all in our twenties."
Mahlangu finished his articles in 2000 at Webber Wentzel Bowens and was admitted to the bar in 2001. He worked briefly at Sihlali Molefe in 2002, before he left to start the law firm with three of his friends, Mabandla, Ratshimbilani and Nkomo.
"The four of us did all the work. We were the messengers, the lawyers, the administration staff, the drivers - we did everything," he said. "But as the practice grew, we hired a few professionals. Soon we had 12 lawyers, excluding the partners, as we started servicing larger accounts," said Mahlangu.
The practice grew to become an entirely commercial firm and the increase in work created a need to review the company.
"We then focused on merging with the big law firms. There were several factors that guided this decision. For one thing, our clients needed to be similar. Also, our core values were important. We needed to be in an environment where we could share ideas, values and thoughts on various issues such as BEE and transformation," he said.
Mahlangu has at least nine years experience in law - in the areas of commercial litigation, ICT and regulatory law. At university he attained a BA, LLB and LLM and was on the dean's merit list for academic achievement.
He also won the Butterworth's Moot competition.