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Our History


Fairbridges Wertheim Becker is the oldest law firm in Africa and the Southern Hemisphere. 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.