Chambers and Partners, one of the world’s leading and most authoritative legal market intelligence firms has just published its research findings of the best corporate law firms in Uganda; to look out for in 2023.
Before we delve into this list, we thought it important to first talk about the necessity and importance of these law firm rankings.
First, there are many lawyers and law firms in Uganda providing the same service; legal advice and representation.
This leaves many consumers (especially first timers) looking for top notch and trusted legal solutions confused on who to or not to instruct.
Therefore, these law firm rankings released on top of every year as a guide into Uganda’s legal market help consumers separate the wheat from the chaff of the legal profession.
We thought it important too; to belabor the methodology of how these law firms are determined and ranked.
Law firms are requested by Chambers and Partners to submit – at no charge – their data particularly firm profiles, teams, and matters handled.
Then Chambers and Partners independently verifies the information so provided including through interviews of the law firms’ clients and references.
It then condenses the information into ranking tables or guides with about four categories or tiers called Bands with Band 1 being the highest and Band 6 ordinarily being the lowest.
So, having understood this, let’s check out who made the cut on Chambers and Partners 2023 list of the best corporate law firms in Uganda.
Important to note is that these corporate law firms are generally engaged in “business law” fields such as mergers and acquisitions, banking and finance, restructuring, dispute resolution, etc.
- Bowmans (AF Mpanga Advocates)
At the helm of this list, is South African law firm Bowmans (AF Mpanga Advocates) which has been ranked by Chambers and Partners for the past 17 years.
According to the UK based legal market intelligence firm, Bowmans “excels in banking and fintech, showcasing a notable base of clients including banks, corporations and development entities.”
“ Bowmans clearly has one of the largest and most experienced practices which covers a vast range of fields.”
Chambers and Partners quotes one of the firm’s clients as saying.
In a press statement published on Thursday last week, Bowmans’ Chairman Ezra Davids said the ranking by Chambers and Partners showcases “our unique capabilities of commercially sound top notch legal expertise…” and acknowledges the analytics firm’s assessment that Bowmans’ wide network of lawyers is a major advantage.
One of the law firm’s work highlights is its successful representation of CNOOC Uganda in a case touching the oil firm’s procurement of oil and gas projects, Chambers and Partners said.
“ We are the go to legal partners for technology companies especially multinationals entering Uganda.”
Bowmans says of its Technology department.
“ We handle the biggest volume of IP (Intellectual Property) litigation in Uganda with marked success of about 90%… We have advised a number of international clients on trade mark registrations and protection including Johnson and Johnson, Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics, CO-RO A/S and Ubuntu Capital.”
The law firm boasts.
“ We advise on large acquisitions and due diligence and advised on a transaction which entailed the acquisition of the entire share capital of Sadolin Uganda Limited, a leading paint company registered in Uganda, Kenya and Burundi.”
It goes on.
David FK Mpanga is ranked individually as a Band 1 lawyer whereas William Kasozi is ranked as a Band 2 lawyer.
“ He has strong knowledge of commercial issues.”
The Analytics firm quotes a Client on Mr. David FK Mpanga.
As for Mr. William Kasozi, the Analytics firm quotes a Client as saying;
“Mr Kasozi is very knowledgeable, client – centric and best of all proactive in his legal advice.
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Next on the list of the best corporate law firms in Uganda is ENSAfrica – also originating from South Africa, a law firm that has been ranked by Chambers and Partners for 11 years.
ENSAfrica Uganda was praised by Chambers and Partners as a “well-regarded group” with experience in capital markets, project finance, domestic and international mergers and acquisitions, business liquidation, and receivership proceedings.
“The practice holds an impressive client roster in the banking sector with further areas of notable activity including energy, real estate, retail, and agriculture.”
Chambers and Partners said.
Part of the law firm’s work highlights is a matter in which they acted for TPG Europe on its acquisition of a minority stake in Airtel Mobile Commerce Uganda.
Additionally, the law firm says its recent work includes a $300M commercial development of an unnamed public institution’s 30 acre real estate portfolio in Kampala and a couple of other big budget legal deals.
“ They are a long standing, full service law firm with a great reputation.”
A client was quoted as saying.
ENSAfrica Uganda’s key corporate lawyers are Mr. Phillip Karugaba who is individually rated as a Band 1 corporate lawyer, Ms. Rachel Musoke who is also a Band 1 rated corporate lawyer and Mr. Donald Nyakairu who is rated in Band 3.
“Phillip Karugaba is very energetic and attentive. I also deeply appreciate his responsiveness and kindness.”
A client says of Mr. Phillip Karugaba according to Chambers and Partners.
As for his colleague Rachel Musoke, a client was quoted by the Analytics firm as saying;
“ She is very calm, exudes confidence and has a very good knowledge of the banking and finance industry.”
Katende, Ssempebwa & Co is one of Uganda’s oldest law firms. It has been ranked by Chambers and Partners for 17 years with its lawyers being consistently praised by the Analytics firm over the years.
Indeed, Chambers and Partners say the law firm is a “distinguished local law firm” and has “ a long established presence at the top of the Ugandan legal market.”
As a matter of fact, the law firm’s founders dominate Chambers and Partners’ “Senior Statespersons” grouping – an enviable class of lawyers old enough to be above day-to-day law practice but still crucial in a law firm’s success or failure.
“ The firm acts on an impressive range of mandates from banking advice and project finance to telecoms investments and infrastructure development. The practice also has additional notable capabilities in dispute resolution, particularly in tax and commercial litigation with further areas of strength including competition law and IP”
Chambers and Partners say of Katende, Ssempebwa & Co
“It benefits from its membership of the LEX Africa legal network, an alliance comprising law firms from across the continent.”
Partner Sim Katende is a Band 1 rated corporate lawyer whereas Partner Alice Namuli Blazevic and Mr. Arthur K Ssempebwa, a new comer in the Chambers and Partners rankings are Band 4 rated corporate lawyers.
“She has been in the market for a long time and has a lot of international exposure. Alice is a super star and a thought leader in legal tech.”
A client was quoted as saying about Alice Namuli Blazevic.
Of Mr Sim Katende, a client said;
“Sim Katende is one of the best lawyers in the Country. He’s very informed and he knows the law as well as what’s happening in the market.”
Fourth on the list of Uganda’s best corporate law firms is MMAKS Advocates – a law firm with a “proven track record” in structuring “commercially sound” transactions, according to its profile.
MMAKS Advocates, ranked by Chambers and Partners for 17 years, like its peers aforementioned leverages its membership of the Africa Legal Network, an association of African law firms.
MMAKS Advocates is also a member of the Employment Alliance, a worldwide alliance of commercial law firms.
“ It is experienced in a considerable range of M&A and finance matters, including fintech. The team is also capable in commercial contracts and excels in arbitrations. MMAKS also benefits from its membership of the Africa Legal Network.”
Chambers and Partners say.
As part of its work highlights, the law firm rates Uganda’s Central Bank – the Bank of Uganda as one of its clients on top of “key” commercial banks.
Notably, MMAKS Advocates advised global payments company, PayPal on a couple regulatory and compliance matters regarding its operation of Flutterwave – another payments company, in Uganda.
“ MMAKS provides detailed advice in relation to understanding and unpacking complex issues.”
A client was quoted as saying about the law firm.
MMAKS Advocates has three of its corporate lawyers individually ranked among Uganda’s best corporate attorneys and these are Managing Partner, Timothy Masembe Kanyerezi – a Band 1 rated lawyer, Ms. Fiona N Magona – a Band 4 rated corporate lawyer and Mr. Apollo Makubuya – a Band 3 corporate lawyer.
“ Masembe is an extremely strong negotiator. He articulates himself clearly and he is intelligent.”
A client is quoted as saying of MMAKS Advocates’ Managing Partner Timothy Masembe Kanyerezi.
- S & L Advocates (formerly Sebalu & Lule Advocates)
S & L Advocates which has in the recent past changed its name from Sebalu & Lule Advocates is the fifth best corporate law firm in Uganda.
The law firm is one of the oldest corporate law firms in Uganda and bills itself as a “pioneering commercial legal practice” in Uganda.
According to Chambers and Partners, S & L Advocates has “ a strong bench of sought-after-lawyers.”
“ The Kampala-based team is engaged in a range of mandates including project finance, lending facilities, Private Public Partnerships (PPP), domestic and regional M & A and corporate restructuring. It has a strong following of clients in the banking sector as well as stand out names in telecoms, oil and gas, private equity and power.”
The Legal Market Analytics firm said.
S & L Advocates has in the past year handled big budget commercial transactions notably; the law firm advised MTN Uganda on its $150M Initial Public Offer and eventual listing on the Uganda Securities Exchange.
The law firm also acted as “mandated lead arrangers” for the International Finance Corporation and African Development Bank on its $403M financing of the 250MW Bujagali dam.
S & L Advocates also advised Stanbic Bank and Centenary Bank on “corporate reorganizations” leading up to the formation of holding company structures.
The law firm also advised TotalEnergies in a suit that challenged the oil company’s procurement and local content processes for the development of the $5 Billion Tilenga oil-field.
S&L, like peers, “ is supported through its membership of the DLA Piper Africa Legal Alliance.” Chambers and Partners noted.
Making these happen at S & L are these notable corporate lawyers; Mr. Barnabas Tumusingize, who is the law firm’s Managing Partner and a Band 1 rated lawyer, Partner Ms. Getrude Karugaba who is a Band 2 rated lawyer, Mr. Nicholas Ecimu – a Band 2 rated lawyer, Mr. James Mukasa Sebugenyi, who is ranked in Band 3 and Mr. Moses Segawa.
“Getrude particularly stands out. She is brilliant, she knows the law very well and she’s able to explain it very clearly.”
A client said of Partner Getrude Karugaba.
Of Mr. James Sebugenyi, a client said;
“James Sebugenyi is a good litigator and a trustworthy adviser to large clients in disputes and transactional work.”
Lastly, in the Band 1 category is Shonubi, Musoke & Co – also one of Uganda’s oldest corporate law firms.
According to Chambers and Partners, Shonubi, Musoke & Co – ranked for 17 years, has a “ long established proficiency” in project finance, syndicated lending, capital markets, and other corporate transactions.
True to the pattern of everyone else who is big in Uganda’s legal market, Shonubi, Musoke & Co also leverages its “strategic alliance ” with Norton Rose Fulbright as well as a “close partnership” with Gilbert & Partners in Burundi, the Legal market intelligence firm noted.
“They are really good, especially in banking, finance and project development.”
A Client was quoted as saying about Shonubi, Musoke & Co Advocates.
The law firm considers Exim Bank Uganda, Afriexim Bank, Africa Development Bank, Total E&P, Vallourec, MTN Uganda, UMEME, ESKOM, Roofings, UGACOF and airline companies as clients.
Shonubi, Musoke & Co Advocates has four of its lawyers ranked individually among Uganda’s best corporate lawyers and these are; Founding Partner Alan Shonubi who is regarded among “ Senior Statespeople, ” Mr. Andrew Kibaya who is rated in Band 2, Mr. Noah Edwin Mwesigwa – a Band 2 lawyer too and Innocent Kihika – a Band 3 corporate lawyer.
“He provides a lot of constructive advice and he is very talented.”
A client said of Mr. Noah Edwin Mwesigwa.
“His attention to detail and knowledge are excellent.”
A client was quoted as saying about Innocent Kihika.
Top in Band 2 which is the second category of the best corporate law firms in Uganda is ABMAK Associates.
This law firm has just been ranked by Chambers and Partners for a mere 8 years.
Chambers and Partners describes ABMAK Associates as a “dynamic and well respected law firm with significant skills in the mining and natural resources industries especially in the oil and gas sector.”
The law firm also has;
“ notable expertise in the telecoms sector in addition to an impressive reputation for handling tax advisory and defence work. Based in Kampala, the firm enjoys high standing among international clients and law firms.”
Chambers and Partners said
Three of ABMAK Advocates’ lawyers are individually ranked among Uganda’s best corporate lawyers and they are; Managing Partner Denis Kusasira – a Band 3 rated lawyer, Ms. Aisha Naiga – a Band 3 rated lawyer and Mr. Festus Akunobera – a Band 4 ranked corporate lawyer.
“Denis is especially excellent in matters of oil and gas.”
A client is quoted to have said about Denis Kusasira.
- Kampala Associated Advocates (KAA)
Second in Band 2, is Kampala Associated Advocates which arguably is the largest law firm in Uganda with a head count of 27 lawyers.
Kampala Associated Advocates, according to Chambers and Partners, is an “accomplished and respected law firm with an experienced bench of lawyers who are well known for their commercial litigation capabilities.”
“ The firm also operates a notable tax dispute practice. It is adept in handling cross-border regulatory and transactional mandates, particularly in the energy and telecoms sectors.”
The Legal Market intelligence firm said.
One of Kampala Associated Advocates’ work highlights is advising Rubis Energy Uganda on an asset purchasing spree of 23 petrol stations in Uganda and its use of the Delta Petroleum trade mark.
“They are a strong firm that elaborates ideas clearly, is result driven and deals with issues in a practical manner.”
A Client said about Kampala Associated Advocates.
Key among its army of lawyers, according to Chambers and Partners, are; Mr. Peter CR Kabatsi, who is rated among “Senior Statespeople,” Mr. Oscar Kambona – rated among Band 2 lawyers, Mr. Joseph Matsiko – its Managing Partner who is rated among Band 2 lawyers and Mr. Bruce Musinguzi, who is rated within Band 4 lawyers.
“Managing Partner Joseph Matsiko is an accomplished Kampala-based litigator and arbitration Counsel, handling construction disputes in addition to commercial and contractual cases.”
Chambers and Partners said.
In Band 3, we have Ligomarc Advocates – a law firm that has been ranked by Chambers and Partners for a mere 8 years.
Ligormac Advocates considers Uganda’s Central Bank – the Bank of Uganda as its client, along UAP Old Mutual Life Assurance, Absa Bank, DFCU, Stanbic Bank Uganda, among several others.
“Ligomarc Advocates has an impressive team showcasing stand out finance related capabilities. The Kampala-based firm is particularly well known for its insolvency practice, demonstrating particular proficiency in contentious bankruptcy cases as well as corporate restructuring work.”
Chambers and Partners said.
“Ligomarc Advocates is a member of the Andersen Global Alliance.”
Key corporate lawyers at Ligomarc Advocates are; Founding Partner Ruth Sebatindira who is rated among Band 4 lawyers, Mr. Joshua Ogwal – a Band 4 lawyer and Managing Partner Mr. Kabiito Karamagi – a Band 3 lawyer.
Other law firms (although no details of their ranking were provided) in the Band 3 category are;