In 1994, a young South African lawyer named Kevin Gold was sitting in his office at central London practice Bayer Rosin flipping a coin to decide the future of the firm he ran. ‘Heads or tails… Olswang or SJ Berwin…’
A third, lesser-known firm was also at the back of his mind: Mishcon de Reya. It was no coincidence the three firms were vying for Bayer’s hand. Formed in 1985 and specialising in litigation, corporate, private client and real estate work, the nine-partner firm was a highly profitable little outfit with revenues of £9m and strong ties to lucrative South African business.
Africa’s largest economy was reforming rapidly following Nelson Mandela’s election to president and London law firms were intent on boosting their business links. Recalls Gold: ‘It was a complicated choice. Olswang was very sexy, located in Covent Garden, which was unheard of. SJ Berwin was a corporate powerhouse.’ But it was litigation specialist Mishcon that ultimately captured his interest. Not that Gold carried out much due diligence, relying on an article in The Law Society Gazette praising Mishcon’s potential.
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