Rousing the bear – Russian counsel force to hunt in new places

Rousing the bear – Russian counsel force to hunt in new places

Russia’s propensity for volatility is infamous. Since its revolution 100 years ago, it has lived through events that the Soviet Union’s founders would never have imagined. Today, amid heightened geopolitical tensions, it continues to face huge uncertainty. But its law firms are adamant that it will continue to provide solid revenues.

‘Reports of Russia’s decline are much exaggerated and most of the issues with the West are not business-driven,’ argues Dimitry Afanasiev, chair and co-founder of Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev & Partners (EPAP). ‘When oil prices head north of $60 and the cycle in hard assets turns, we will remain strategically-placed to capitalise on the opportunities.’ Continue reading “Rousing the bear – Russian counsel force to hunt in new places”

Offshore: Riding the storm

Offshore: Riding the storm

Think offshore centre and certain calm images spring to mind: elegant yachts, crystal blue water, sparsely-populated beaches and gently sloping palm trees. However, in September this idyllic cliché was superseded in the public consciousness by horrific scenes of destruction as Hurricane Irma and then Hurricane Maria ripped through the Caribbean. The British Virgin Islands, where nine of the top ten offshore law firms have an office and nearly 400,000 offshore companies are registered, were catastrophically affected.

Favoured by Chinese companies in Hong Kong for more than 30 years, ‘a BVI’ is shorthand for an offshore company, so renown is its status. But while the narrative coming out of the British Overseas Territory has been defiant with Lorna Smith, interim executive director of BVI Finance, saying there was ‘no doubt’ it will fully return, it could take some time before full operational normality as a commercial and litigation centre is restored. At press time, the territory’s company register continued to function via the online portal, VIRRGIN and just prior to the disruption, company incorporation certificates were sent to London by the BVI Financial Services Commission to have them issued there. The commercial division of the High Court had resumed and matters were being heard by the commercial judge sitting in nearby St Lucia in person, or by teleconferencing or videoconferencing if agreed by the parties. Continue reading “Offshore: Riding the storm”

Emerald Ambitions

Emerald Ambitions

Barry Devereux, managing partner of Irish leader McCann FitzGerald, is not letting the bad Irish weather dampen his spirits. ‘The Irish market is buoyant and there are a lot of things going on. The economy is growing, markets are good and debt is relatively inexpensive. The climate is good for deal-making. Brexit is the reality, but it will undoubtedly provide opportunities across the financial services market in Dublin. It has given a fillip to the market in terms of the interest in real estate, and people looking for accommodation and office space. Dublin is doing very well.’

Dublin’s legal market continues to boom. The impact of Brexit undoubtedly dented the transactional market in the last six months of 2016, but the shock has, for the most part, subsided and many practice areas are busy. Real estate has enjoyed a particular resurgence after the painful post-bailout year, while corporate and finance lawyers are always in high demand. But the Irish market is also enjoying a boom in more niche areas, including data protection and intellectual property, particularly with the incoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and legal works in the fields of fintech, regulatory investigations and online gaming. Continue reading “Emerald Ambitions”

A new hope for Cyprus’s recession-battered lawyers

A new hope for Cyprus’s recession-battered lawyers

Crisis is an overused term, worn out by endless repetition. For most European economies, it has meant a period of low or stagnant growth over the last decade and, in some cases, a year or two of negative GDP eventually followed by a welcome recovery. For Cyprus, however, the word has had even greater potency: between 2008 and 2015, GDP per capita declined by roughly 30%. On top of the global 2008-09 recession, Cyprus had its own domestic banking crisis in 2012-13, precipitated by the eurozone collapse. This led to a downgrade of its bond credit rating to junk status and a €10bn bailout programme from the troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

It would be all too easy to dismiss Cyprus based on this performance – except that the island’s economy is experiencing a belated rebound. And what that means for investors in the medium term is significant. Despite financial services activity continuing to have a negative effect on the economy, latest GDP figures show a healthy 3% growth, which ‘surpasses all expectations’, according to finance minister Harris Georgiades. Continue reading “A new hope for Cyprus’s recession-battered lawyers”

Holding steady – A turbulent Middle East market separates the committed from the faint-hearted

Holding steady – A turbulent Middle East market separates the committed from the faint-hearted

Emerging markets are by nature volatile, frequently impacted by events such as political instability, civil unrest, corruption and other economic forces. The extremes of growth and decline could hardly be more apparent than in the Middle East, where the collapse in oil prices has prompted a great deal of soul searching.

Saudi Arabia, for example, is going through the most radical social and economic reform programme in its history, and Iran is still subject to ongoing trade sanctions and uncertainty connected to US foreign policy. Added to this, these two nations share deep enmity, which demands high levels of diplomacy on the part of firms that target both jurisdictions. Continue reading “Holding steady – A turbulent Middle East market separates the committed from the faint-hearted”

In the game – Israeli law firms embrace risks to secure the tech icons of tomorrow

In the game – Israeli law firms embrace risks to secure the tech icons of tomorrow

Every Thursday at 6pm, Yair Geva, co-head of Herzog Fox & Neeman (HFN)’s high-tech department, drinks a beer on the rooftop of a client’s office in central Tel Aviv. The weekly drink, which started seven years ago when he returned to Israel from New York, is a routine that is borne out of professional commitment and friendship. In the start-up and high-tech world, the two often go hand in hand.

‘We share a long journey with our clients and we are often with them from day one,’ Geva says. ‘The only way to keep in touch with this very vibrant dynamic ecosystem is to hang out with friends, clients and hear the news.’ Continue reading “In the game – Israeli law firms embrace risks to secure the tech icons of tomorrow”

Making ripples – Turbulent times ahead for the Swiss legal market

Making ripples – Turbulent times ahead for the Swiss legal market

Switzerland is changing. Among the country’s traditionally-minded law firms, conservatism is in decline, fuelled by a greater appetite for domestic mergers, increased lawyer mobility between firms and a belated focus on alternative legal service provision. Accordingly, Swiss lawyers are much like the swans on Lake Geneva: smooth and serene on the surface, all the while paddling furiously underneath. An energetic response to the fresh demands of an evolving legal services landscape is paying dividends for some.

The wider economy presents a mixed picture, as Urs Klöti, managing partner of Pestalozzi, outlines: ‘Challenging times remain. The Swiss franc is still very strong, which means that export services are extremely expensive compared with previously. That’s an issue for bigger law firms, because many of our invoice payers are non-Swiss counterparts: in relative terms, we’re certainly more expensive than two or three years ago. We often hear it when we talk about fees.’ Continue reading “Making ripples – Turbulent times ahead for the Swiss legal market”

Hunting El Dorado – Iberian firms keep their eyes on prizes at home and abroad

Hunting El Dorado – Iberian firms keep their eyes on prizes at home and abroad

A year ago, Spanish leader Garrigues unveiled its fifth office in Latin America, adding Chilean firm Avendaño Merino to its existing outposts in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. And, as the most expansive Iberian practice in the region, there is undoubtedly pressure to prove the strategy effective. Fortunately, Garrigues has seen startling 81% revenue growth to €18.6m in the region in the last 12 months and expects to generate €30m from Latin America in 2017.

Managing partner Fernando Vives Ruiz says the turning point was a tactical switch to offer a fully-integrated practice in Latin America rather than relying on best-friend alliances. It decided to go it alone in 2013 when it pulled the plug on its Latin American alliance, Affinitas, which it set up in 2004. Continue reading “Hunting El Dorado – Iberian firms keep their eyes on prizes at home and abroad”

The year offshore in review – The Iron Islands

The year offshore in review – The Iron Islands

Despite a year of pronounced headwinds, our annual focus on the ten largest offshore firms reveals that 2016 activity levels remained robust with an increasing focus on Asia and continued strength in dispute resolution. However, among the leadership of these firms there is little doubt that Brexit has had an inevitable effect on performance.

‘The reality of Brexit has and will continue to impact business as much as the prospect of Brexit has done,’ says Jonathan Rigby, managing partner at Mourant Ozannes. Continue reading “The year offshore in review – The Iron Islands”

The right platform – trying to find a long-term approach for Africa

The right platform – trying to find a long-term approach for Africa

‘There is no African law firm that does infrastructure the way we do; it’s front and centre of our strategy. There is a real gap in the market for a sector-based law firm.’

This bold statement comes from Richard Laudy, head of infrastructure at the latest foreign entrant into the increasingly popular South African market, Pinsent Masons. The national UK firm announced in July that it would be opening formally in Johannesburg in early 2017 with an office staffed by 20 lawyers and seven partners, including two partners taken from local heavyweight, Bowman Gilfillan, including head of construction Rob Morson and disputes partner Shane Voigt. Continue reading “The right platform – trying to find a long-term approach for Africa”