Delivering Alternative Excellence

Fresh from scooping the title of Alternative Service Provider of the Year at the recently held African Legal Awards, Vanessa Kingsmill and Naseem Ameer-Mia of Herbert Smith Freehills chatted to Africa Legal’s Tom Pearson about their recipe for success.

As a fully integrated and integral part of global law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, Alternative Legal Service (ALT) is a combination of cutting edge technology and legal expertise that provides clients with innovative market-leading solutions in respect of high-volume, document-intensive legal work.

“People often ask why it’s called ‘Alternative’,” said Kingsmill who is Head of Alternative Legal Services, Johannesburg. “I think it’s a bit of a misnomer. We don’t view our work as an alternative to traditional legal advice. We are never going to replace traditional lawyers; clients will still need that specialist lawyer who brings real expertise, but we like to think of ourselves as additive. We are an essential and valuable part of the whole package that we offer to clients,” she clarified.

Elaborating further on how ALT works in practice, Ameer-Mia, a Senior Manager in Johannesburg’s Alternative Legal Services practice, explained how this benefits the firm and ultimately the clients.

“As a leading global law firm, we have the capability and expertise to introduce specific process design, resourcing and tool deployment techniques to make sure that we take the administrative and delivery burden off the in-house teams on a day-to-day basis.

In effect, we give them back time and control, and handle their recurring mandates at an extremely effective price. And, with the full end-to-end service that Herbert Smith Freehills provides, there’s always easy access to the firm’s wider specialist teams should the client need this,” said Ameer-Mia.

Asked about some of the firm’s milestones, Kingsmill shared that they have grown tremendously since 2011 and now have nearly 400 lawyers, technologists and legal analysts working together across the globe. The firm has hubs in the UK, US, Australia, China and South Africa.

“Another milestone in our development was the launch of our global cloud-based technology platform about six months ago. That enables us to work around the clock in a ‘follow the sun’ working model, which means we can pass work around the globe to deliver faster for our clients,” she said.

In the podcast, Kingsmill talks about why she is proud of the firm’s employee value proposition, and the International Legal Development Programme. Ameer-Mia shares his career growth and trajectory perspective, and explains how it’s possible to influence your next role at Herbert Smith Freehills.

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This article was first published by Africa Legal on 29 September 2021:

For more information, please contact Vanessa Kinsgsmill and Naseem Ameer-Mia or your usual Herbert Smith Freehills contact:

Vanessa Kingsmill
Vanessa Kingsmill
Head of Alternative Legal Services, London
+44 7934 292 997
Naseem Ameer-Mia
Naseem Ameer-Mia
Senior Manager - Alternative Legal Services, Johannesburg
+27 67 412 3822

SA Lawyer recognised globally for driving gender equality, diversity

Herbert Smith Freehills South Africa lawyer, Plaxedes Makura, has been recognised for the fourth consecutive year for her contribution to progressing gender equality and diversity on the HERoes Female Future Leaders list. Makura is a manager in the firm’s Alternative Legal Services (ALT) team, based in its Johannesburg office.

Announced in London on 9 September, these global lists recognise female leaders who inspire and drive gender equality within their organisations and professions. The HERoes Women Role Model Lists 2021 is supported by Yahoo Finance and INvolve, a global organisation championing diversity and inclusion in business and working across ethnic minority, LGBT+ and gender diversity.

Plaxedes is an experienced disputes lawyer in the Alternative Legal Services (ALT) team at Herbert Smith Freehills. She was integrally involved in setting up the Johannesburg ALT team in 2017, which forms part of a market-leading, innovative global team of 350 lawyers, technologists and legal analysts operating across 11 international locations.

As well as serving on the Johannesburg Pro Bono Committee and the Regional Race Champions Committee, Plaxedes was instrumental in setting up the Social, Diversity, CSR and Mental Health Committees. In addition to managing complex cross-jurisdictional international disputes projects, Plaxedes’ responsibilities include the recruitment of legal analysts as part of the pioneering International Legal Development Programme.

When recruiting, Plaxedes ensures that she and her colleagues are championing individual uniqueness, and that the teams they recruit are diverse. As a result, more than half of the legal analysts recruited in January 2021 were women.

Outside of work, Plaxedes has raised funds for a breast cancer patient who could not afford treatment and for a biokinetics student to be able to register for her second year of studies.

Plaxedes Makura says: “I am proud to work for a firm that places such great emphasis on diversity, inclusivity and equality in the workplace. My position within the management team has enabled me to play an active role in establishing committees and networks that strive to make the firm welcoming and inclusive, not only for women but for all employees. My philosophy is to foster an inclusive business culture that champions individual uniqueness.”

Vanessa Kingsmill, Head of ALT at Herbert Smith Freehills Johannesburg says: “I am delighted to see Plaxedes recognised as a future leader and role model for women across our business and the legal profession. I take great pride in the work we are doing at Herbert Smith Freehills to build an ever-growing inclusive culture and her contribution to that has been significant.”

The list is now in its fifth year and comprises three categories – Women Executives, Women Future Leaders and Advocate Executives. These lists recognise women who are leading by example and driving change alongside male advocates who create a more diverse and inclusive business environment for women.

For more information, please contact Plaxedes Makura or your usual Herbert Smith Freehills contact:

Plaxedes Makura
Plaxedes Makura
Manager, Alternative Legal Services - Johannesburg
+27 79 397 9044


Herbert Smith Freehills’ industry-leading Alternative Legal Services (ALT) practice has been ranked in Chambers’ ALSP Guide 2021 in the following categories:

  • Band 1 in Litigation Services – Global Wide
  • Band 2 on Contract Lifecycle Management – Global Wide

The rankings mark the second time that the firm’s ALT practice has been ranked Band 1 for litigation services, and the first time it has been ranked in contract lifecycle management. ALT previously received a Band 1 ranking for Litigation Services – Global Wide in last year’s first-ever Chambers ALSP rankings.

Client feedback in the rankings stated that the ALT practice was: “a very professional and efficient team, with team leaders who are passionate about continuous improvement and adding value.”

From innovative beginnings in Belfast that led the market in 2011, the firm has invested in growing deep technical experience in ALT for global disputes for a decade. The firm’s top tier Disputes practice works seamlessly with ALT’s legal and eDiscovery teams around the world to deliver a combination of formidable expertise in contentious work with the efficiency and value that an exclusive ALSP offering brings to our clients.

Working closely with partners in the firm’s Corporate practice, newly ranked this year, ALT’s commercial contract offering includes effective, flexible and tech-enabled solutions which range from supporting on strategic projects and major events, to supporting in-house teams with adjacent business-as-usual workstreams.

ALT Head of Corporate, UK, US and EMEA, Mark Ward said “We are delighted that our fast growing contract offering has received this recognition. Our global corporate team is proud to help clients across a variety of sectors and jurisdictions get the most value out of their commercial contracts with our tailored solutions and continuous process and technology optimisation.”

In the rankings this year, ALT was also ranked Band 2 in Law Firm LPO and Band 3 in Flexible Legal Staffing.

ALT is a fully-integrated and integral part of Herbert Smith Freehills’ international network. Using a unique blend of people, process, technology and data, ALT creates transformative solutions to our clients’ challenges on a global scale; delivering high-quality, cost-effective and technology-enabled legal services for data-intensive, defined-process legal matters.

Our teams, comprising 350+ lawyers, technologists and legal analysts, are located across eleven hubs: Beijing, Belfast, Brisbane, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, London, Melbourne, New York, Perth, Shanghai and Sydney.

Managing Partner of ALT Libby Jackson MBE said “We are thrilled with the rankings from Chambers this year – what a perfect way to mark ALT’s 10th birthday! These results illustrate the wealth of credible expertise and passionate client service that our teams bring to the matters they work on. They also highlight the power of ALT’s combined contentious and transactional technical legal expertise, bringing the best of HSF to our clients all around the world.”

For more information, please contact Allison Judd or your usual Herbert Smith Freehills contact:

Allison Judd
Allison Judd
PR Manager, New York
+1 917 542 7844