The start of September has seen international firms reinvigorate their expansion plans, with Clyde & Co revealing an Indonesian alliance after joining forces with Indonesian law firm, while Charles Russell has extended its global footprint with the opening of an office in Qatar. Elsewhere, central and eastern European focused firm Kinstellar launched its seventh office located in Kazakhstan, hiring a team from Dentons, which has just opened a second office in the CIS state.
As no foreign firm can practise independently in Indonesia, Clyde & Co has signed a formal association with 30-year old domestic firm Lubis Ganie Surowidjojo (LGS). Heading the new Indonesian venture is Singapore-based projects and resources partner Michael Horn, an Indonesian market veteran who first moved to the region in 1992.
As part of the integration process, both Clyde & Co and LGS plan to place lawyers into each other’s offices. Clyde & Co’s Asia managing partner Michael Parker said: ‘LGS is an ideal partner for us, given its established, leading practice in the areas in which we specialise. For us, an established firm that has both history and vision makes an ideal partner.’
LGS has experience of working closely with large UK firms – the firm had a non-exclusive alliance with Norton Rose prior to the UK firm’s tie-up with Deacons to form Norton Rose Australia, which formalised its relationship with Susandarini & Partners in 2011.
‘As Indonesian business increasingly engages beyond Indonesian borders and international businesses expand in Indonesia’s regions, [the firms] offer the right combination of international and local reach,’ said LGS managing partner M. Idwan ‘Kiki’ Ganie.
Meanwhile, the primary focus of Charles Russell’s new office in Doha will be real estate and construction work and will seek to take advantage of the upsurge in construction activity throughout the Middle East.
The Qatar team will be led by the firm’s head of real estate and construction for the Middle East, Simon Green, and will officially open this month. It follows the firm’s move to larger office premises in Bahrain in early July.
Patrick Gearon, head of Bahrain office, said: ‘With the firm’s continuing expansion in the region, Qatar was the obvious choice for us. We maintain a long-term commitment to the Middle East region.’
Qatar is emerging as a serious competitor to Dubai as a prime Western-friendly legal hub and considered by many firms as an easier Launchpad into the Middle East. Backed by huge oil reserves, which have given the country the highest GDP per capita in the world and home to several large sovereign wealth funds, it is not hard to see the appeal. With the World Cup being held in Qatar in 2022 there has been a rush to improve infrastructure.
Finally, over in Kazakhstan, Dentons partner Joel Benjamin moved to CEE firm Kinstellar as part of a team of ten lawyers including debt and equity capital markets specialist Adlet Yerkinbayev who was made partner.
According to a Kinstellar statement, the new office ‘enhances the firm’s ability to meet client needs in emerging markets including, now, the resource-based economies of Central Asia’.
A former legacy SNR Denton partner, Benjamin has worked in Kazakhstan since 1993 and has also spent time at White & Case. Specialising in M&A, banking and capital market transactions, he will serve as managing partner in the new Almaty office.
Benjamin described the new venture as a ‘very attractive’ prospect, and said the firm intends to focus primarily on corporate work.
‘Dentons has taken a focus to become one of the mega firms in the world,’ he added. ‘That really was not for myself or Adlet [Yerkinbayev]. We didn’t see the benefits to us. This is much more attractive to us because the vision of Kinstellar and ours is very much aligned. We want to be independent with international quality and local counsel in this market. We enjoy that independence – it enables us to work on the highest quality deals.
‘We expect to get a lot of new clients – we have a reputation in the market. This increases our opportunity and enables us to work with other international firms without that fear that they’ll refer work to a competitor. In terms of mandates, we have a full pipeline at the moment that is following us.’
Newly merged entity Dentons has countered the loss of this team in Almaty with the launch of a satellite office in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, and will be headed by newly promoted partner and construction specialist Birzhan Zharasbayev.
Dariusz Oleszczuk, the firm’s Europe chief executive officer, said: ‘Kazakhstan is a rapidly growing economic hub in the CIS region, so strengthening our capabilities and presence in this country is of strategic importance to us.’
This move follows the firm’s decision to close its Kuwait office in June, post the three-way merger of Salans, SNR Denton and Fraser Milner Casgrain to form Dentons earlier this year. Since then, managing partner of the now closed office Stuart Cavet has moved to the Abu Dhabi office, while corporate specialist Mary Ann Sharp works as a consultant in the Doha office. Two out of three associates within the Kuwait team are no longer at Dentons.
‘Following the closure of its office in Kuwait, Dentons can confirm that those lawyers who could and wished be re-assigned to other offices in the Middle East have now been,’ said a firm statement.