On the 30th November 2011 our firm celebrated its 15th birthday with a cocktail party for clients at the Granger Bay Hotel School. It was a beautiful evening and those who attended enjoyed a memorable occasion.
Attached is a copy of the speech made by the firm’s managing director Peter Edwards as well as a few photographs of the event.
The firm would like to thank its clients and service providers who attended the celebration and who have supported us over the years.
Let me start by firstly thanking all of you for taking the time to be here and to share this occasion with us.
I realize that many of you here are competitors but for this evening if you would take the gloves off and leave any weapons at the door.
Having said that, although we have had the venue swept for Competition Commission bugs, it is not advisable to get too close to each other and in particular to discuss beach prices, voorskots, agterskots and the like.
2. FIRM’S HISTORY
As far as the history of our firm goes, relative to some of the other Cape firms, at 15 years old we are still in my view a young firm.
We originated from the firm Field & Co. started by the late Roger Field about 30 years ago.
Field & Co. was the first boutique firm of maritime attorneys, which dealt exclusively with matters of a maritime nature.
In 1996 Field & Co. was approached by the then firm of Muller Gruss Attorneys with a takeover proposal. At this stage Peter Dawson was now a director in Field & Co. Roger Field elected to join Muller Gruss but Peter Dawson decided to start a new firm and continue with the concept of an exclusive maritime practice.
This was the birth of our firm which started trading as Dawson & Associates in what can only be described “sweat shop offices” in Spin Street, Cape Town.
3. LANDMARKS ALONG THE WAY
The following constitute landmarks in the firm’s voyage:
- Myself joining the firm at the beginning of 1998;
- The firm buying its own offices in Gardens where we still continue to practice from;
- Peter Dawson leaving the firm to immigrate to New Zealand at the end of 2001, and the practice changing its name to “Dawson, Edwards & Associates”;
- Alistair Downing, my fellow director, joining the firm in 2003 to start his articles
- Grant Clark, my fellow director rejoining the firm in 2004 as a professional assistant having left the firm at the end of 1997 when he finished his articles.
What is the ethos of our firm? Our ethos is reflected in the firm’s logo being the lighthouse.This venue is appropriate in that a few meters from where I am standing is the base of the second oldest lighthouse built in South Africa, being the Mouille Point lighthouse and not far down the road the Green Point light house being the oldest light house in the country.
When Peter Dawson started the firm his goal was to be a lighthouse for his clients in order to help them navigate their businesses through the stormy seas of commerce. At the same time he wanted to maintain the integrity and independence of the firm so that it would be visible in the maritime and legal landscape as an upstanding firm and a leader in its field.
I believe we have maintained this ethos of independence and excellence since the firm’s inception. The three directors of the firm being Grant, Alistair and myself own and manage the firm and are involved in its day to day running. We do not compete amongst ourselves for clients, billing or work in order to reach fee targets set by higher powers. We do not strive to build our own individual empires within the firm.
Our prime focus is to provide clients with the best solution to their brief and to add value from our in depth knowledge and experience accumulated from years of involvement in our specialized fields. This we enjoy doing with passion.
In turn our independence allows for thinking out of the box and providing alternative solutions.
We strive to stay lean and mean and abreast of developments in our industry and the industries of our clients. In a London survey of South African maritime firms we were once described as a firm which punches above its weight.
At this juncture Grant has asked me to mention a particular example of value adding to clients. This related to our involvement in the Longterm Fishing Rights Appeals and Review Process where our intricate understanding of the allocation system and points scoring mechanism allowed us to claw back millions of rands worth of fish for clients.
Maintaining the firms exclusivity and independence has not always been easy, with take over approaches having been made to us over the years, all of which we have turned down.
5. WORK MAKEUP
Although our ethos over the years has remained steady the makeup of our workload has changed significantly. Originally the firms focus was on shipping and admiralty litigation.
This has evolved over the years and along with the usual admiralty and shipping litigation we now do large amounts of commercial, fisheries and environmental work.
6. THANK YOU
We are grateful to many for the enjoyable years that our firm has had in practice.
Our first thank you must go of course to you our clients who have supported us over the years. We aim to continue adding value where we can to your businesses.
Internally we must thank our own support staff who are equally passionate about the firm and the services we provide. Your commitment and loyalty over the years is truly valued.
As regards my fellow directors Grant and Alistair, it has been a privilege working with you over the years and I look forward to the years ahead. There is a seemless co-operation between us, with each of us adding their special ingredient to the smooth running of the firm.
On my behalf and on behalf of the other directors I must also thank our wives and families for their support and patience over the years. Law is a consuming passion and in our field urgent arrests and applications on weekends or public holidays are common occurrences.
We also have our service providers to thank, and in particular Grant Thornton our auditors who have always provided a professional service.
7. LOOKING FORWARD
When doing business in South Africa we always seem to be in exciting and challenging times.
Looking forward in our industry we see the following issues:
- Maintaining South Africa’s standard of legal expertise both at judicial level and in practice. Rule of law from our perspective is key to stability in this country;
- Making our ports more attractive to foreign vessels. This in our view will depend on the cost structures of the port and its efficiency. From the government’s perspective there is a new maritime policy in place and the challenge will be the implementation and achievement of the goals set out in this policy;
- Environmental issues will become more and more prevalent and the sophisticated environmental legislation which this country has in passed will be key to maintaining the bio-diversity of this country and the sharing of its natural resources amongst competing users. The proposed nuclear power plant at Thyspunt off the East Coast opposite prime fishing grounds is a clear example of this issue;
- As regards the fishing industry the usual issues remain. Efficient fisheries management, new ministerial policies and in particular the small scale policy and how it will relate to the current commercial sector, the transfers of rights, future rights allocations, amendments to current legislation, the implementation of black economic empowerment ;
- On the commercial side, one should not underestimate the effect of the New Companies Act, the Consumer Protection Act and the increasing application of Competition legislation.
In conclusion, may I thank all the staff at my office for the organizing of this event together with the Hotel School, and once again thank you to all of you for sharing this event with us.
We wish you plain sailing and full steam ahead over the years to come.
Please enjoy the rest of the evening and be careful not to drink and drive – if you elect to drink and drive Alistair should have some of his cards to hand out.