About Fairbridges Wertheim Becker

Fairbridges Wertheim Becker was formed by the coming together of two longstanding, respected law firms, the first being Fairbridges established in 1812 in Cape Town, the second Wertheim Becker founded in 1904 in Johannesburg. This merger makes Fairbridges Wertheim Becker the oldest law firm in Africa, with its strong values and vision, it also makes them the perfect legal partner to assist you in achieving your business objectives.

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Winner of the Labour & Employment Law Firm of the Year in South Africa 2018
Global Law Experts

At Fairbridges Wertheim Becker we pride ourselves on being both ethical and empathetic. We enjoy working in a professional yet supportive environment. We know the worth of good inter-personal relationships, often referred to as our family values, and we believe this brings significant benefits to our clients.

Our teams of experienced and highly-qualified attorneys and professional staff allow us to offer a wide-ranging service to our clients through our multi-disciplinary practice. We have the capacity, resources and specialist skills to meet our client’s needs both locally and abroad, while offering a very personal service to all our clients.

Throughout our long and rich history, we have always adapted to a changing environment and embraced innovation in seeking solutions for our clients. This ethos of enterprise, coupled with our commitment to service excellence and the maintenance of the highest standards in the practice of law has grown and sustained our unique professional reputation as South Africa’s senior law firm. Our current generation of attorneys is fully attuned to the requirements of a modern evolving world, and welcomes its challenges, secure in the solid and enduring foundation on which the firm has been built.

Our Proud History

Originally established by John Merrington in Cape Town on 06 November 1812, the firm celebrated its Bicentennial – 200 years of continuous legal practice – in 2012.

Many outstanding personalities have played their part throughout the long and rich history of the firm. Charles Fairbridge was a Member of Parliament and the first President of the Cape Law Society. He designed the coat of arms of the Cape Colony which was first used at the laying of the foundation stone of the new Houses of Parliament in 1875. He accumulated a magnificent collection of books which was finally donated to the South African Library in Cape Town where it is housed in the Fairbridge wing opened in 1927 by then Prime Minister of South Africa JBM Hertzog.

Thomas Scanlon was a partner of the firm when he became Prime Minister of the Cape. Henry Arderne was twice Chairman of Old Mutual. Among many who have served their articles with the firm were William Bell who established the South African Law Journal, JW Sauer who became Minister of Justice of South Africa, Ted Sceales who was Chairman of SA Breweries, and Norman Price who became an Appeal Court Judge.

The firm which became Fairbridge Arderne and Lawton developed a broad commercial client base both domestic and foreign. It was the leading shipping and maritime firm in South Africa for many decades. It appeared in the very first intellectual property case reported in South Africa in 1863. Partners Tom Lawton, Arthur Tancred and Tony Hardy all served with distinction as presidents of the Cape Law Society.

The firm has been rated the top law firm in South Africa in its category five times by the annual independent PMR.africa national survey of all law firms.
Wertheim Becker was established in Johannesburg in 1904. Over more than a century it developed a reputation for outstanding legal expertise, exceptional attorney and client relationships, and consistently reliable professional service. The firm has numbered amongst its partners many highly-regarded practitioners whose guidance and support of their clients both corporate and personal, has played a significant role in the growth and development of Johannesburg as the commercial powerhouse of Africa.

With Cape Town as the Parliamentary Capital of South Africa and Johannesburg as its economic hub, the strategic merger in 2015 of Fairbridges and Wertheim Becker has seamlessly amalgamated the combined resources, experience and expertise of both firms. The rich heritage and shared values of both firms ensures that clients continue to express confidence in the value proposition, sustainability and performance benchmarks that Fairbridges Wertheim Becker offers.


Fairbridges Wertheim Becker is committed to the empowerment of black persons as defined in the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act, 53 of 2003. Currently, 30% of the equity ownership of the firm is held by black professionals, all of whom actively participate in the senior management and strategic planning of the firm.

Fairbridges Wertheim Becker has implemented and practices equal opportunity for all based on merit with an emphasis on embracing and advancing historically disadvantaged individuals.

    International Alliances

    TERRALEX – Our Global Reach

    Fairbridges Wertheim Becker has since 1999 been the exclusive South African member of TerraLex, a leading international network of top independent law firms in over 100 countries worldwide. TerraLex has recently been selected as the Global Network of the Year for 2017 by The Lawyer, one of the key citations was their African Affiliate Programme an initiative proposed, developed, and implemented by Fairbridges Wertheim Becker.


    With over 1,000 offices and more than 18,000 lawyers, the TerraLex member firms offer our clients global expertise with local knowledge and connections. Member firms are able to collaborate seamlessly across borders with colleagues from other jurisdictions regardless of differences in legal systems and cultures.

    TerraLex provides its members with opportunities to develop close professional and personal relationships, to acquire an understanding of each other’s business and legal environments, to share best practice knowledge and experience, and provide responsive quality service in jurisdictions throughout Africa, Europe, North and South America, and the Asia Pacific.

    Fairbridges Wertheim Becker has been closely involved in the leadership and growth of TerraLex. In 2008 we hosted the TerraLex annual general meeting in Cape Town, drawing hundreds of delegates and their partners to South Africa. We have been represented on the Board of Directors since 2003 and current director Bob Groeneveld serves as Regional Vice-Chair for Africa & Middle East, as did our former chair Louis Rood before him. Membership of TerraLex enables us to effectively meet our clients’ legal requirements, wherever they do business or require advice and support, confident in the high professional standards and quality of our TerraLex colleagues. Go to www.terralex.org

    Our Culture and Values

    We are accountable to one another and to our clients, and are mindful of our role and responsibilities to our community and in South Africa!

    • We embrace challenges and encourage innovation.
    • We conduct ourselves with integrity and commitment.
    • We push our boundaries to pursue continuous improvement in everything we do.
    • We respond with energy and purpose.
    • We apply ourselves with thoroughness, consistency and passion.
    • We aspire to foster a vibrant culture where people thrive.
    • We support and believe in others, motivate each other and show appreciation.
    • We respect and value what we have and who we can be.
    • We listen to our clients and always strive to find the best possible solution for all.