Norton Rose Fulbright hires partner from Cliffe Dekker to lead Cape Town banking and finance team

Izak Lessing joins NRF in Cape Town two days after it appointed Michelle David as regional chair

Izak Lessing

Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) has hired partner Izak Lessing from local outfit Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr to lead its Cape Town banking and finance team, hard on the heels of a leadership change at the global firm's Africa arm.

Lessing joins NRF's South Africa business – Norton Rose Fulbright South Africa – after a decade at Cliffe Dekker, where he was a director in the firm’s banking and finance group. 

Lessing’s official title upon joining the firm will be director, the South African equivalent to partner. At NRF, he will continue to focus his practice on finance, banking, corporate and corporate finance transactions in addition to projects and construction matters. 

Jackie Midlane, head of NRF South Africa's banking and finance and projects practice, said: “We are thrilled that Izak has joined our firm. He will be an asset to our banking and finance practice both now and in years to come.” 

Lessing began his legal career at leading Dutch independent De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek in 2001 and later worked as an associate at Dubai's Afridi & Angell before landing at property developer Nakheel in 2007, where he led the company’s commercial legal team for three years. 

News of Lessing’s appointment comes two days after the firm appointed pensions and employee benefits specialist Michelle David as chair of its South Africa arm. She succeeds Andrew Robinson – also a former global chair – who is taking over as CEO from Marelise van der Westhuizen, who retired from the role due to ill health, according to 

Robinson said the firm “couldn't think of a better person” to take over the chairmanship. 

“[David] is an incredibly talented lawyer and exceptional career woman – we look forward to seeing what she achieves next,” he added. 

NRF South Africa has three offices across the country – in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban – and houses a team of more than 200 lawyers. The firm opened there in 2011 when it absorbed Deneys Reitz, one of South Africa’s ‘big five’ law firms. 

The firm promoted one of its South Africa-based lawyers – litigation and disputes expert Paul Cartwright – to partner in January. It also hired three associates in April from regional firms to beef up its corporate and commercial litigation teams in Johannesburg. 

Other firms building their offerings in South Africa recently include Allen & Overy, which added partners Brian Price and Ze’ev Blieden from local heavyweight Werksmans last month to bolster its dealmaking capabilities in Johannesburg. Pinsent Masons, meanwhile, hired corporate crime and forensic investigation partner Edward James from ENSafrica in January.


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