Port Elizabeth's largest legal firm celebrates milestone

BIG OCCASION: Greyvenstein’s Conveyancers and Attorneys is celebrating 60 years of legal practice. Liesel Greyvenstein is MD of the firm
BIG OCCASION: Greyvenstein’s Conveyancers and Attorneys is celebrating 60 years of legal practice. Liesel Greyvenstein is MD of the firm
Image: Eugene Coetzee

Establishing and nurturing trust with its clients has seen one of Port Elizabeth’s largest legal firms, Greyvenstein’s Conveyancers and Attorneys, reach a massive milestone as it celebrates a whopping 60 years of legal practice.

Started in 1960 under the name Markman, Cohen and Van Der Linde, Greyvenstein’s quickly became known  as a legal one-stop-shop.

After joining the firm in 1976, which at that stage came to be named Van Der Linde, Kemp and Greyvenstein, Emile Greyvenstein was the first Greyvenstein appointed as a director of the firm.

He was later joined by his brother Rohan and in 1986 the firm became known simply as Greyvenstein’s.

Offering a wide scope of legal services, the firm had earned a name for itself over the last six decades through its engagement with its clients, who were  like family, the MD of the firm, Liesel Grevenstein, said.

“Our clients are our friends and they become the friends of our staff members because that is the PE culture and I think that is why it works so well here, that is the edge we have,” she said.

“Here people value those personal relationships ... we don’t only know our clients, we know their families and it is just more personal.”

Two original Greyvensteins are still working for the firm.

Brothers Emile Jnr and Rohan Jnr are still active directors in the firm their fathers helped usher into the 21st century, Liesel, who started as an articled clerk at the firm in 1997, said.

Three years later she became a junior partner.

Not a Greyvenstein by birth Liesel, who married Emile and later divorced him in 2008 said the Greyvenstein name and its success story lay in the personal relationships built up over the years.

“[W]e have built these relationships over 60 years, especially the relationships with our big corporate clients, the banks and major companies and those ... are the foundation which we live and work for and that is honestly the single most important thing that we try to create, or the culture that we try to nurture among the directors and staff,” she said.

There are 80 employees working at the Port Elizabeth branch alone and 120 in total, which include the firm’s Johannesburg and Cape Town branches, and she said staff generally stayed with them until retirement.

“We have staff members here who have worked here for 40 years or longer and that is definitely what we are proudest of — the fact that we have been able to form and then maintain those relationships for so many years,” she said.

Looking back at some of the more memorable moments for the firm, she said the one that stuck out most was the 1996 murder of one of the firm’s partners, Merwe Swart.

Swart was gunned down in the driveway of his Walmer home on an overcast morning in August 1996 in a hit-style murder, which after a crowd-pulling trial the next year saw the boyfriend of Swart’s wife Amor, Fanie de Lange, convicted of culpable homicide.

De Lange was sentenced to seven years and released on parole in October 2002 after serving three years and five months of his sentence.

Part of the firm’s 60th anniversary celebrations was an event scheduled for today, but it had to be postponed due to the new government restrictions halting gatherings of 100 people or more.

She said the event was going to see the firm’s Park Drive, St George’s Park, building turned into a something of a museum, with those attending given an opportunity to meander through the corridors looking at news clips from the past 60 years and narrators giving information during the walk.

The walk through time would then culminate in the building’s parking area, where guests would be entertained at a cocktail reception.

“It is a big event for us, a 60th must be celebrated with style,” she said.

As for the name Greyvenstein, Liesel said it had garnered a legacy to be very proud of.

“[We] really have moved with the times. We look at what works and what people need and make that accessible for as many people as possible.”