The Phatshoane Henney Group, South Africa’s largest association of independent law firms, has just released its first Group Transformation Report to benchmark the impact of the Group on transformation in the country’s legal sector, notwithstanding the continuing absence of a clear legal sector BEE Charter.
"Over the 10 years since the first member firm has joined the association in 2006, many developments have taken place within the Group. Yet one constant has been the core commitment to empowering member firms across South Africa to lead the way for the legal fraternity in respect of transformation,” says Douglas Henney, Phatshoane Henney Group Chair.
While the past decade has seen many other Group initiatives undertaken in respect of transformation and black economic empowerment, none attest stronger to the Group’s commitment than the Group BEE Standards unanimously adopted by all members at the end of 2014. “These standards pave the way for continuing transformation initiatives and best practices across the Group, supporting firms to achieve their transformation objectives. Since 2015 has been the first year of the application of these standards, the Transformation Report provides vital feedback on the progress of firms towards meeting these standards.”
The commitment to diversity and transformation has seen Group firms spend in aggregate of over R50 million this past year on BEE and BEE compliance, transformation, black procurement and community initiatives - reflecting the earnestness of the Group’s commitment. This can be divided into R30 million in BEE procurement spend, R9,6 million in spend on black legal service providers, R3,5 million in pro bono and discounted legal services, R3,5 million invested in learnerships through the enrolment of 100 disabled learners in the Phatshoane Henney Training Academy, R2,25 million in community and socio-economic projects, R2,2 million each on Enterprise Development and skills development respectively, and R500,000 awarded in bursaries to Group candidate attorneys.
“The introduction of the Group BEE standards, combined with graduate recruitment initiatives and the Group candidate attorney bursary programme have also seen the percentage of black and female candidate attorneys being appointed at Group firms escalate to 50% of all candidate attorney appointments in 2015. With time, this growing pool of black and female candidates will contribute to growth in black and female professionals in the Group, as well as the legal sector as a whole,” Henney remarks.
Another positive reinforcement of each firm’s BEE commitment is the continuing exemplary results achieved through formal BEE verification. 2015 saw group firms achieve an average BEE recognition level of just over a level 2 across 41 firms with no less than 10 firms achieving a Level 1 BEE recognition - which could not be achieved without proper and sustainable planning as well as management commitment towards transformation.
“It is a great privilege to present this first Group Transformation Report for the year 2015. When all of what is addressed herein is considered, I believe it provides undeniable evidence of our communal investment in transformation, and confirms that Phatshoane Henney Group members are indeed setting the standard for transformation in the legal industry,” Henney concludes.