28 Aug 2020

Dentons hires ex-ambassador as part of African expansion plan

Former German diplomat Albrecht Conze joins the firm as counsel

Dentons continues its expansion in Africa Shutterstock

Former ambassador Albrecht Conze has joined Dentons as counsel in the firm’s Berlin office, after more than 30 years of diplomatic service, for German, European Union and United Nations entities.

In his new role, Conze will support and advise German investors in their business activities in Africa, particularly those relating to energy and infrastructure projects. He will also work closely with the firm’s energy, regulatory, and sovereign advisory groups within Europe and Africa.

Conze has extensive diplomatic experience in Europe, Africa and Asia. He also has spent time advising German companies and African governments on infrastructure projects, export finance and cooperation with development banks and agencies. 

The hire will further strengthen Dentons’ position on the African continent as the firm expands its global reach.

“German promoters and investors are still underrepresented in energy and infrastructure projects in Africa,” said Thomas Schubert, head of the firm’s German energy group and co-head of the firm’s European energy regulatory group.

He added that with Conze’s “experience in international trade and diplomacy, combined with our strong local presence in Africa and expanded energy team in Berlin,” the firm was well placed to support German investments in Africa.

Conze himself commented on the “untapped opportunities” Africa offers German companies, adding that he “often sensed a distinct openness to foreign investment and engagement from Germany” in Africa. 

Conze’s arrival is the latest element in Denton’s expansion on the African continent. In 2019, the firm announced combinations with leading law firms in Morocco, Angola, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe, building on its established presence in other African nations

Noor Kapdi, the firm’s Africa CEO, described those 2019 moves as part of Denton’s strategy to create a “pan-African law firm owned and managed by Africans.”

Despite high-profile exits from the firm’s Spanish office earlier this summer, Dentons has continued to expand its global presence, this year becoming only the third international firm to open in New Zealand.

Conze is not the only new arrival to the Berlin energy practice. in July, a four-person team of energy and infrastructure lawyers moved from Baker McKenzie, building on other recent key energy appointments in Paris and Frankfurt over the past year.

Hiring former ambassadors is not unique to Dentons. Jenner & Block carried out such a hire of its own recently, with the arrival of former US ambassador David Pressman to its crisis management litigation team.

Pressman, a former US ambassador to the UN with a long public service record, was the founding director of George and Amal Clooney’s family foundation—the Clooney Foundation for Justice—and joined the firm from Boies Schiller & Flexner in a further departure for that firm.

Other law firms with a robust ambassadorial presence include Covington & Burling, which counts diplomatic and trade professionals such as former ambassadors Daniel Feldman, Jean De Ruyt and Karel Kovanda among its ranks.

Witney Schneidman, a former US diplomat with three decades of Africa experience, has also advised Covington clients on African matters since 2012.

Elsewhere in Africa, South African law firm Bowmans recently opened offices in Zambia and Malawi, bolstering the firm’s office count to nine in eight countries.