Uganda

Reviews

IFLR1000 Reviews

AF Mpanga

AF Mpanga is the Bowman Gilfillan Africa Group member for Uganda. The team is consistently recommended by clients. David Mpanga is highly experienced in energy sector matters and clients speak highly of Julius Musoke, who was previously principal counsel of the African Development Bank. The firm covers all manner of contentious and non-contentious work. Recent deals saw the team advise the borrower, Eaton Towers Uganda, on a $60 million acquisition and development financing from the IFC and Standard Bank. The firm worked with Allen & Overy on the project.

ENSafrica

ENSafrica Uganda is constantly growing in profile in the Ugandan market. The team has specific expertise in the telecoms sector but has a good track record in all manner of energy and infrastructure projects. Key contacts are Bernard Katureebe, formerly a legacy SNR Denton banking and finance lawyer, Alexander Kibandama, whose expertise lie in projects, project finance and M&A, and Donald Nyakairu, a former head of legal at a telecoms solutions provider. Ronald Tusingwire manages the litigation team.

Kampala Associated Advocates 

Kampala Associated Advocates appears on some of the country’s weightiest deals and over the past couple of year it has kept a strong profile in energy work for clients such as Tullow Oil. The firm has an association with Dentons. 

Key contacts are David Mpanga and associate partner Aisha Naiga Kiwola. The firm has a broad spread of expertise and some high profile figures including Charles Kallu Kalumiya, who focuses on international and public law and Elly Karuhanga, a former president of Tullow Oil Uganda. Karuhanga also serves as Chairman of the Uganda Chamber of Mines and Petroleum.

The firm was recently supporting global firms representing clients in litigation in the commercial court in Uganda and in ICSID arbitration over various matters, including a tax dispute. 

Kasirye Byaruhanga & Co

Kasirye Byaruhanga & Co consists of four partners and 14 associates. The firm is part of the Mackerel International network and is active in litigation, with a substantial part of its practice dedicated to transactional matters and retainer clients. 

Key contacts include partners Andrew Kasirye and Paul Rutisya. The team has been representing clients such as Excel Construction, the Association of Ugandan Oil and Gas Services and Eko Power. 

Katende Ssempebwa & Co

Katende Ssempebwa & Co is the Ugandan member of the LexAfrica network. The firm is probably the most visible on energy and infrastructure projects and it is also the most often recommended port-of-call for international clients. 

Key contacts are Frederick Ssempebwa, a leading legal figure in the region who has done considerable high profile work on national legislation (including on the constitution of South Sudan), and managing partner John Katende. Partners Sim Katende and Soogi Katende are widely considered leading individuals. “Very good,” says a client, “once you find people like this that you are happy with you stick with them”.

Over 2013 the firm has been advising the government, alongside Eversheds, on the $3 billion construction of an oil refinery. It also acted for Total, Puma, American Tower Corporation (ATC) and the African Development Bank on various matters and assisted Warid Telecom Uganda on its $500 million merger with Bharti Airtel.

MMAKS Advocates

Masembe Makubuya Adriko Karugaba and Ssekatawa Advocates (MMAKS) is the ALN member firm for Uganda. The firm has a team of 12 lawyers dedicated to commercial transactions and they are highly regarded by clients. The firm has a full service offering and has been building its oil and gas capacity. It also offers a strong track record in mining and in contentious cases.

Head of corporate Phillip Karugaba is a key partner, while banking and finance head Rachel Musoke is also a well-established contact. Other names to watch are partner Apollo Makubuya, who has been visible on high profile mining-sector disputes, and senior associate Fiona Magona. 

Sebalu & Lule Advocates

Sebalu & Lule is DLA Piper’s member firm for Uganda. It is a large firm with a busy energy and infrastructure practice, which recently included mandates for the lenders on the Bujagali II dam and on Uganda’s only copper mine. 

Nicholas Ecimu leads the energy and infrastructure practice. Barnabas Tumusingize is a well-established senior lawyer in the market and the firm boasts a number of talented junior lawyers, among them Brenda Ntambirweki and Paul Mbuga. 

The firm was advising the Ugandan government on the concession of the Kilembe Mines (copper) and was assisting a concessionaire on a PPP (public-private partnership) rail project. The team was also representing Electromaxx on project financing of $35 million to expand its thermal power plant form 20MW to 35MW. 

Shonubi Musoke & Co

Shonubi Musoke & Co is a well-established leading firm in Uganda for energy and infrastructure. Distinguishing it from competitors, the team has a close relationship with Norton Rose Fulbright and manages an associated office in Burundi: Shonubi Musoke Gilbert & Partners.

Key contacts are senior partner Alan Shonubi and partners Noah Mwesigwa and Andrew Kibaya. In March 2013 the firm hired Innocent Kihika from the Uganda Electricity Transmission Company, a move that boosts its credentials in the power market. Kihika brings with him insider expertise in all areas of energy law 

The firm is on the panel for Total and counts Neptune as one of its oil and gas clients. It worked on the UMEME IPO, one of the most high profile equity capital markets transactions in recent years, and has been engaged by the Aga Khan Foundation. Elsewhere the firm advised the IFC and Standard Bank as lenders of a $60 million acquisition and development financing to Eaton Towers Uganda.

AF Mpanga

AF Mpanga consolidated its position as a top tier firm in 2012 with the recruitment of Julius Musoke, former principal counsel of the African Development Bank (ADB). Musoke was with the ADB for eight years and in private practice he has already earned compliments from various clients and attracted mandates to the team.

"Musoke has the added advantage of his experience as legal counsel at the African Development Bank, which has given him not only great banking skills but also sector knowledge, specifically telecommunications," says one client. One of the team's recent highlights saw it advise Bharti Airtel on its acquisition of Warid Telecom.

The firm continues to deepen its integration with the Bowman Gilfillan Africa Group, which plugs it into a highly rated and growing pan-Africa network as well as additional training opportunities. It is on the panel of a number of local banks, including Stanbic Bank and Equity Bank, advises on regulatory issues for the Central Bank of Uganda and is so far the only firm on CNOOC's legal panel.

Key partners include managing partner William Kasozi and Julius Musoke, both of whom focus on banking and finance. Dual UK and Uganda qualified barrister David Mpanga is active on oil and gas legislation and is one of Citibank's favoured counsel in the country, while Fred Mpanga, also a former bank in-house counsel, advises on banking, finance and insurance matters. Associate Brian Kalule joined the firm in 2012 and has also been tipped as a promising up-and-comer.

Birungyi Barata & Associates

Birungyi Barata & Associates is highly regarded in the market primarily for its tax practice and commentators say the firm has a high market profile due to the "magnitude of the tax matters they have handled". Based on this alone the firm is considered one of the leading outfits.

The team, led by Enoch Barata and Cephas Birungyi, also has considerable corporate, commercial and banking experience to back its tax clout.

Byenkya Kihika & Co

Byenkya Kihika & Co is a three-partner firm led by Ebert Byenkya, Oscar Kihika and Blaisie Paulsen. The firm is highly rated for its litigation practice but it maintains a reputation for high quality transactional work.

Kihika has expertise on M&A and corporate transactions, while managing partner Paulsen handles corporate, corporate finance, securitisation and regulatory matters, among other related areas. The firm has a long-standing real estate practice.

ENSafrica

ENSafrica set up in Uganda in September 2012 with the team from Synergy Advocates, which itself had only established in 2009. The new office has the ENS look and feel and is fully integrated into its South African headquarters.

The four partner team is led by Ugandan and UK qualified Bernard Katureebe, a former legacy SNR Denton banking and finance lawyer, Alexander Kibandama, whose expertise lie in projects, project finance and M&A, and Donald Nyakairu, a former head of legal at a telecoms solutions provider. Ronald Tusingwire manages the litigation team.

Katureebe has been working with the Bank of Uganda to review existing banking law and look at introducing Islamic finance and has also been working with Norton Rose Fulbright to assist Standard Chartered Bank Uganda on a $45 million loan to Airtel Uganda.

Otherwise the team has been active on corporate restructurings and acquisitions in the energy and oil and gas sectors and with less than a year of existence at the time of publishing and expansionist ambitions it is very much a case of 'watch-this-space'.

Impala Legal

Established in 2006, Impala Legal focusses on corporate commercial law and is currently led by three partners.

Managing the team is Brian Kaggwa, former head of corporate and commercial of Shonubi Musoke & Co and current member of the Uganda Chamber of Mines & Petroleum. Kaggwa handles corporate commercial, litigation, project finance, infrastructure, real estate and energy. Susan Kaggwa covers a broad range of corporate and commercial, banking and IP and Sanyu Mukasa specialises in banking and commercial lending work.

The firm has assisted Imperial Bank on its establishment in the country and has continued to assist on its banking work. The team also acts for the large Mukwano Group and has been busy on various mall construction projects and the financing for a sugar mill.

JB Byamugisha

Joseph Byamugisha as an individual is a match for any of the top lawyers from the market's leading corporate firms. He has a broad and well-respected practice that includes corporate commercial transactions and commercial litigation. Commentators note his Achilles' heel in a firm-to-firm line up is that he "faces a size disadvantage".

Kampala Associated Advocates

Kampala Associates Advocates (KAA) is associated with Dentons and managed by Sam Mayanja. The corporate transactional team headed by David Mpanga, with one of the key associate partners being Aisha Naiga Kiwola.

The firm has a broad spread of expertise and some high profile figures including Charles Kallu Kalumiya, who has a high level experience in international and public law and Elly Karuhanga, a former president of Tullow Oil Uganda, MP (serving on the Presidential and Foreign Affairs Committee) and state attorney. Karuhanga is also currently serving as Chairman of the Uganda Chamber of Mines and Petroleum and honorary consul to the Seychelles. Karuhanga is one of the firm's key rainmakers.

The office has a strong client base in banks, financial services, energy and natural resources, utilities and public entities and is experience in negotiating and structuring public-private partnerships (PPP).

Recent work saw Mpanga and Kiwola advise Coma Group on a PPP for the $700 million development of the Naguru-Nakawa residential development project and Mota-Engil on an infrastructure PPP project with the Ugandan police. Another deal saw the pair represent Italian company Finasi in negotiations with the government for the refurbishment of two hospitals.

Elsewhere, in 2013 the firm was advising on a proposed rights issue and a continental bank on a facility agreement to an agro-business company. Naiga Kiwola led a stream of finance deals on behalf of banks.

Karuhanga Tabaro & Associates

Karuhanga Tabaro & Associates is a discreet law firm established in 2009 with a strong network of contacts. The team is led by partners Edgar Tabaro, Justus Karuhanga and Edwin Tabaro.

Karuhanga in particular has a high profile, having acted as legal advisor to the president. The firm as a whole is distinguished for its expertise in intellectual property, media and telecommunications, broadcasting and IT.

Recent work saw it advise Dubai based Salah Khamas Group on a $10 million acquisition in Pearl Meat Industries, which included a land acquisition transaction and corporate tax issues. The firm also advised Black Sea Group on a $21 million financing and acquisition of a hydroelectric project.

Kasirye Byaruhanga & Co

Kasirye Byaruhanga & Co consists of four partners and 14 associates. The firm is part of the Mackerel International network and is active in litigation, with a substantial part of its practice also dedicated to transactional matters and retainer clients. Key contacts include partners Andrew Kasirye and Paul Rutisya.

As chair of the Uganda Retirement Benefits Regulatory Authority, Kasirye has been heavily involved in the retirement benefit, pensions and social security fund shake-up, which, partly enshrined in the Retirement Benefits Liberalisation Bill, seeks to open up investment opportunities for this pool of assets.

The firm was also recently active in the rather complicated bidding process for the Karuma Dam construction.

Kateera & Kagumire Advocates

Yusuf Kagumire and John Kanyemibwa are the key contacts at Kateera & Kagumire. The firm has a good track record in the utilities and banking sectors. It handles regular work for clients such as Stanbic Bank.

The firm has a reputation for good quality legal expertise although it has not yet broken into the new legal market for bigger ticket project financing according to some commentators.

Katende Ssempebwa & Co

Katende Ssempebwa & Co is the country's longest standing premier league corporate commercial firm.

The team boasts impressive credentials and includes numerous dual or triple qualified lawyers, as it encourages all its members to get a second degree. It is the biggest full service firm in terms of numbers and a member of the Lex Africa network.

The most senior partners are Frederick Ssempebwa, a leading legal figure in the region who has done considerable high profile work on national legislation (including on the constitution of South Sudan), and managing partner John Katende.

Partners Sim Katende and Soogi Katende are widely considered leading individuals in the sector while Frederick Sentomero is rising in prominence as a key corporate finance partner.

The past 12 months has seen the firm advising the government, with Eversheds, on the $3 billion construction of an oil refinery. The firm has also advised Total, Puma, American Tower Corporation (ATC) and the African Development Bank (ADB). A big deal saw the firm assist Warid Telecom Uganda on its $500 million merger with Bharti Airtel.

Kigozi Ssempala Mukasa Obonyo

Kigozi Ssempala Mukasa Obonyo (KSMO – 'kismo') was founded in 2006 has since developed a reputation as a young and ambitious firm with good technical competence.

The team has seven core practice areas that include corporate and commercial, banking securities and insurance, tax, IP and real estate. Two of the founders, David Ssempala and Mulema Mukasa, were formerly at Katende Ssempebwa.

Kiwanuka & Karugire Advocates

Kiwanuka & Karugire Advocates is another well-connected firm but at the same time it is held in high esteem for the quality of its legal output. Commentators describe the group as a "very dynamic young law firm" with a "high level of execution of work". The key contacts are Kiryowa Kiwanuka and Edwin Karugire.

Lex Uganda
Managing partner Charles Odere is the main contact for corporate commercial matters at Lex Uganda, which was launched in 1996.

In terms of its work profile the firm has clinched a number of interesting mandates over the past 12 months, including advising the developers on the development, financing and corporate aspects of a 22,000 square mile retail park outside the capital.

The team assisted a regional bank on its establishment in the country, a private equity firm acting in a consortium for the construction of a public building under public-private partnership (PPP) and a telecom company on a $45 million loan from an international bank.
 
Odere doubles up as a businessman in his own right in the hotel sector while the other senior partner on corporate matters is Matthias Nalyanya.
MMAKS Advocates

MMAKS (Masembe Makubuya Adriko Karugaba and Ssekatawa Advocates) emerges from this year's research as one of the top two firms for corporate finance matters. The firm is part of the ALN (Africa Legal Network) and has 12 lawyers dedicated to commercial transactions.

Head of corporate Phillip Karugaba is a key partner, while banking and finance head Rachel Musoke made an early entrance into the leading lawyer category and has since maintained her position. Other names to watch are name partner Apollo Makubuya and senior associate Fiona Magona, who joined the firm from Bowman Gilfillan in November 2012.

According to a client from a regional bank, Musoke " is one of Uganda's finest lawyers- she is able to understand the transaction at hand and offer advice that takes into account both legal and commercial considerations hence ensuring agreement of all contracting parties within excellent timeframes". "I would not trust any other local counsel to run a syndicated deal the way I trust MMAKS Advocate," says a bank client.

In the past 12 months the team advised on local law issues for a substantial restructuring of an international bank's activities in Uganda and also advised a private equity firm on a significant sale of its stake in a local bank. The deals place the firm in some of the higher profile mandates of the past year.

The link with ALN is also significant from a regional perspective and in terms of exposure to a variety of mandates.

Nangwala Rezida & Co

The two partner firm of Nagwala Rezida & Co gets regularly recommended by commentators. Name partners James Nangwala and Alex Rezida both have broad practices covering corporate commercial and banking and finance, as well as related areas such as patents and trademarks, media law, land law, litigation and dispute resolution.

Sebalu & Lule Advocates

Sebalu & Lule fought its way into the top tier in 2012 and it has since held on. On its side are the size of its office, with five partners and 16 associates and its association with DLA Piper, which brings various mandates its way and puts the firm on a more international footing.

The firm also counts on the experience and talents of senior partners Barnabas Tumusingize and Nicholas Ecimu, as well as high quality more junior lawyers including Brenda Ntambirweki and Paul Mbuga. The relationship with DLA is also in the process of strengthening and the firm is aiming to have the DLA 'look and feel' by the end of 2013.

Client feedback has always been very strong. According to a bank client who worked with Tumusingize, the firm scores top marks for its legal technical skills, timeliness and value for money. "Quick response time within 24 hours with various solutions on how to approach different issues in contention," says the client, who likes the "excellent reach" that the DLA Piper connection gives the firm.

The team has been active in banking and capital markets transactions in the last 12 months, advising the East African Development Bank (EADB) on its Ugandan Stock Exchange listed multi-currency MTN programme and Vine Pharmceutical on a convertible debt investment by Aureos. The team also advised Rabo Development on its acquisition of a 27.5% stake in the listed DFCU Bank.

Shonubi Musoke & Co

Shonubi Musoke & Co is a well-established leading firm in Uganda for corporate commercial and finance work. The non-contentious corporate commercial team is led by senior partner Alan Shonubi, who also focuses on real estate, IP and labour law and partners Noah Mwesigwa and Andrew Kibaya, who both also handle litigation. Notably, the firm has a close relationship with Norton Rose Fulbright along with an associated office in Burundi: Shonubi Musoke Gilbert & Partners.

Market consensus places the firm in tier 2 for 2014 however a fine line separates the two tiers in the market and Shonubi Musoke has made a move to be second to none in crucial areas such as power, energy and infrastructure with the strong partner hire, in March 2013, of Innocent Kihika from the Uganda Electricity Transmission Company. Kihika brings with him insider expertise in all areas of energy law and the addition is a logically smart move, considering the potential issues that may arise in the coming years in the country's energy and power sectors. It says a lot that Kihika chose Shonubi Musoke as a home, as his move to any firm would have made an impact at the top of the market

According to a client from an international bank who worked with Kibaya the firm scores highly on responsiveness and communication, commercial awareness and its ability to innovate in legal solutions. Kibaya is "very pleasant and knowledgeable," says the client. A client from a regional bank rates the firm's bank finance capabilities as up with the best.

The firm has big clients on its books and is a panel firm to Total and counts Neptune as one of its oil and gas clients. It worked on the recent UMEME IPO, one of the most high profile equity capital markets transactions in recent years, and has been engaged by the Aga Khan Foundation, a promising mandate for the future. Recent deals also saw the firm advise Ecobank, Rabobank International and Standard Bank on significant loan facilities.