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Adams & Adams


Adams & Adams is an internationally recognised and leading African law firm that specialises in providing intellectual property and commercial services.
Intro: Adams & Adams is best known as an intellectual property law firm, has been involved in some ground-breaking cases that have had major impacts on SA.
South Africa Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration
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Intro: Adams & Adams is best known as an intellectual property law firm, has been involved in some ground-breaking cases that have had major impacts on SA.

By Ciaran Ryan

At 116 years of age, Adams & Adams has been part of SA's developmental story. Best known as an intellectual property law firm, it's roster of clients is as long as it is old.

The firm recently rebranded itself to reflect its extensive African footprint, with associate offices in 28 countries, and a wider suite of legal services catering to clients in SA and further afield on the continent.

What's changed is the nature of the firm: still rooted in IP, but with flourishing practices in areas such as dispute resolution, real estate and commercial law.

It turns out Adams & Adams is much more than an IP firm. It has been involved in some ground-breaking litigation in SA, many of them high-profile cases.

"We're one of the oldest law firms in South Africa, and we've grown over the decades to the point where we have an extensive African footprint. We decided it was time to rebrand under the tagline 'Realise African Enterprise' to reflect our new positioning both in SA and across the continent as a law firm helping our clients realising their business objectives," says Jac Marais, partner and chair of the commercial, real estate and dispute resolution department at Adams & Adams.

"We're still rooted in intellectual property, but we've expanded well beyond that. Our fastest growing units are dispute resolution and litigation, real estate and commercial law."

The firm sees itself remaining rooted on African soil, although we are well connected across the globe through our international relationships that go back many decades. The world has also become smaller, and a locally based law firm is able to represent clients on the international stage in areas such as international commercial arbitration "In those situations we believe we offer clients a good value proposition, given our expertise and the competitive rates we are able to charge compared to international firms," says Marais.

Below are some of the cases in which it's been involved.


Adams & Adams represented a group of mainly SA asset managers with claims of about R14 billion against Steinhoff, eventually achieving a settlement in excess of R10 billion, following the accounting fraud uncovered in 2017 that collapsed the retailer's stock price.

In a novel legal approach, the investors joined forces in two special purpose vehicles, Hamilton BV and Hamiton 2 BV, to successfully challenge Steinhoff's proposed "global settlement" which would dispense €943 million (about R19 billion) among all claimants. The Hamilton SPVs challenged Steinhoff's proposal to extend different settlement amounts to those who acquired shares on the stock exchange, and those who acquired them via contractual agreements. This would have prejudiced those, such asset managers, who bought Steinhoff shares on the open market. The courts agreed. Marais says this collaborative approach achieved a better outcome for investors than would be the case if each went it alone.


In another ground-breaking case, Adams & Adams challenged the constitutionality of the state's attempt to remove Robert McBride as executive director of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), arguing this contravened the independence of IPID as enshrined in Section 206 (6) of the Constitution and would interfere with the smooth functioning of the police body. The matter was eventually heard by the Constitutional Court, which ruled that the then minister of police had acted outside his powers in removing McBride and ordered parliament to remedy the IPID Act, the Public Service Act and the IPID regulations that opened the door to ministerial interference in the suspension, removal or institution of disciplinary proceedings against the executive director.

Visa v Dlocal

In February 2024 the Competition Tribunal interdicted card company Visa from imposing penalties against Nedbank or attempting to block it from transacting with e-commerce collections company Depansum, trading as Dlocal. This was a temporary interdict while the Tribunal investigates Dlocal's claim that Visa's behaviour is an abuse of dominance under the Competition Act. Adams & Adams is representing Dlocal in this case. Visa argues that local's activities violate SA's exchange control laws and that Dlocal has not demonstrated any anti-competitive effects from the card company's enforcement of its rules. The litigation is ongoing.

Zuma v Billy Downer

Former President Jacob Zuma's attempt to bring a private prosecution against the National Prosecuting Authority's lead prosecutor, Bill Downer, is the latest in a two-decade attempt to avoid a rendezvous with justice. Downer was involved in the successful prosecution of Schabir Shaik for bribing Zuma, who himself faces charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering. Downer characterises Zuma's legal strategy as a "Stalingrad tactic" aimed at delaying his inevitable day in court. Adams & Adams acts pro bono for the Helen Suzman Foundation, which argues that the private prosecution of Downer is an abuse of the court process. It's an entertaining read, available here.

This has deep political implications, with elections around the corner and Zuma's role as head of the newly formed MK Party being the subject of numerous other court challenges. Earlier this month the Electoral Court ruled that Zuma could run for election, overturning an earlier decision by the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) that Zuma was not eligible to stand for election in light of his 2021 contempt of court conviction. The IEC has now taken the matter to the Concourt.


Adams & Adams is also representing bus company Intercape in its long-running campaign to force police and other authorities to protect its buses and passengers against violence from taxi operators in the Eastern Cape. This follows an alleged extortion attempt against the bus company to stop incidents of shooting, stoning and violence against it.

"We're proud of our track record in representing our clients in these and many other cases, and we believe can continue to have a positive benefit on the country through the courts and the judicial system," says Marais.

Another growth area within the firm is real estate, with a professional team of more than 40 people and a client list comprising some of the top developers in the country. It also has a growing insurance capability.

Brought to you by Adams & Adams.

Originally published by moneyweb.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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