Falling on swords.
Baker McKenzie’s loss of its established management in South Africa will continue with the departure of both its Head of Africa and its Director of Africa Operations, RollOnFriday can reveal.
As the firm waved goodbye to former South Africa Managing Partner Morne van der Merwe this week, it confirmed that Wildu du Plessis and Bruce Schubach were also heading out the door.
Du Plessis was the MP in South Africa until van der Merwe took the reigns in 2016, when he was appointed head of Baker McKenzie's Global Africa Practice.
Schubach only joined Bakers in January. At the time he regurgitated sexy managerspeak for the press about applying “rapidly changing regulatory data and intelligence to turn complexity into certainty”, uttered the required new boss mantra about embracing diversity and inclusion, and accurately predicted that the future would “provide both immense challenges and exciting opportunities’, albeit he thought he was talking about Africa rather than himself.
Bakers quietly stood van der Merwe down several months ago while it investigated a whistleblower’s complaint, but its endemic problems with bullying at the Joburg branch were brought to wider attention when numerous former Baker McKenzie lawyers spoke to RollOnFriday about their experiences. Ex-staff described how van de Merwe, du Plessis and Schubach were known around the office as ‘the three musketeers’.
Asked this week whether the other two had embraced the spirit of 'all for one, one for all' and followed van der Merwe, a spokesperson told RollOnFriday, “Wildu du Plessis has stepped down as a Principal of Baker McKenzie and, with effect from 10 September 2021, as a director and shareholder of Baker McKenzie Inc in Johannesburg. He will leave the Firm on 30 September 2021".
He confirmed that Schubach would be leaving on 24 September.
None of three was publicly thanked for their service, in what represents an extraordinary clear out of the management of Baker McKenzie’s South Africa operation.
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