Going solo

Equity partners from a number of big Austrian firms have decided to go it alone, setting up boutiques over the past 12 months. Legal Business explores the impact these moves are having on the market.

In the final days of last summer in downtown Vienna, a small law firm opened its doors for the first time. Nothing unusual there, except that this firm, Benn-Ibler Rechtsanwälte, was opened by five well-respected former DLA Piper Weiss-Tessbach partners who quit in January 2010. When the partners left their old firm, they walked out with a fifth of the firm’s revenue and 40% of its equity partners.

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Worlds colliding

The Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive, dreaded by the offshore world, has now been agreed. LB finds out why the offshore world’s law firms are still smiling

After laboured negotiations and more than 30 drafts, the Alternative Investment Fund Managers (AIFM) Directive was finally approved by the EU parliament in November 2010. As the terms were thrashed out in the preceding 18 months, the funds industry held its breath, stifling funds activity both on and offshore. The offshore world is now resting a little easier.

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Italy 2.0


The Italian legal market has modernised over the past decade as local firms have reacted to greater client demands and the influx of foreign practices. Now there’s greater pressure on fees and billing arrangements

Over the past decade the Italian legal market has gradually been modernising, entering its own 2.0 era. Firms have taken a more business-focused approach to how they run their firms. Italian lawyers who traditionally prided themselves on their ability to advise on a wide range of areas have become more specialised. Continue reading “Italy 2.0”

Litigators of Russia – unite!

The Russian commercial justice system has suffered from image problems in the past, but recent court reforms and a boom in litigation look set to challenge this. LB investigates the impact on the domestic litigation market

In 2005, when Anton Ivanov was appointed chairman of Russia’s Supreme Court of Arbitration, the country’s highest commercial court, the domestic judicial system was blighted by accusations of political interference and corruption. It is fair to say that, for those seeking greater judicial independence within Russia and a broom to sweep away the court system’s perceived problems, Ivanov’s appointment wasn’t immediately seen as a great herald for change. For anyone hoping for an outsider, his arrival was an immense disappointment. Continue reading “Litigators of Russia – unite!”

Russian cases for Russian lawyers

Disputes from Russia and the CIS are an increasingly profitable area for Western firms, even for those without offices in the region. LB looks at how long the trend can continue

It’s a time bomb,’ says Dimitry Afanasiev, chairman of the Russian law firm Egorov, Puginsky, Afanasiev & Partners. ‘Given the fact that at some point some of these commercial contracts are going to blow up into a dispute then I think the English legal market is going to see Russian business for a long, long time.’ Continue reading “Russian cases for Russian lawyers”

The right track


Everything seems to conspire to prevent all but the most adventurous and patient of investors from entering Angola. A room at the ‘four star’ Tropico hotel, a 1970s’ block in downtown Luanda, will set you back $500 a night. Once checked in expect to pay $10 for a two-litre bottle of drinking water, $6 for a beer and $20 for a sandwich. It’s not surprising that the capital Luanda is now one of the most expensive cities in the world. Working in Angola requires not only deep pockets but also patience and preferably a bit of Portuguese. Yet investors and their lawyers remain unperturbed, lured into oil-rich Angola by double-digit growth rates and growing investment opportunities.

Angola is a country of paradoxes, a stark contrast of boom town and abject poverty. Executives at the country’s national oil company Sonangol will travel to Lisbon to meet its lawyers because working in and travelling to Angola is so difficult. Despite the difficulties, with real GDP growth rates of 21% and 13% in 2007 and 2008 respectively, and major mandates on offer, international law firms are finding there is work to do in the country. Oil is at the heart of this growth, with revenues from the sector accounting for a massive 85% of the country’s GDP. Having overtaken Saudi Arabia and Iran to become China’s biggest oil supplier, Angola is also benefiting from a stream of multi-billion-dollar Chinese investments. Among them money from China has been paved into the reconstruction of the Benguela railway, much of which was destroyed in the recent civil war.

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Emerging targets

Mourant Ozannes’ merger this summer created another large fish in the global offshore pond. Firms now have to focus on clients from new economies to stay ahead

It was nearly a decade in the making. Jersey and Guernsey titans Mourant du Feu & Jeune and Ozannes announced their merger earlier this year but, for market observers, it was a tie-up that had been on the cards ever since Jersey and Guernsey rivals Carey Langlois and Olsens merged in 2003.

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Nerves of steel: Ireland


As little as five years ago, the consensus was that Ireland was a mature legal market. In a failed experiment, UK firm Masons (legacy firm of Pinsent Masons) had packed in its projects and construction boutique after a mere six years, citing fierce market competition.

Certainly, despite the construction boom, the Irish legal market was an unlikely place for an international firm to launch: it already had its Big Five — Ireland’s Magic Circle — plus several more entrepreneurial firms sitting below them getting ready to pounce. With a population of less than five million, it was inconceivable that a newcomer could threaten their domination. Who would want to move into such a tightly held monopoly? Nobody seemed surprised when Masons moved out in 2004.

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Home rule: Romania

International firms in Romania don’t just face a weakened economy, they also face stiff competition from a host of major domestic rivals. Legal Business analyses a market in flux

Entering a new jurisdiction is never easy. On top of the start-up costs, the need to establish a strong team of local lawyers and a solid client base, there is also the tricky matter of timing. It can take up to two or three years of planning before you are finally able to put that new city onto your law firm’s website. By which time, the market that so attracted you in the first place might have altered drastically.

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Voyage of discovery: Portugal

The downturn in Portugal’s economy means that overseas markets, including Africa and Brazil, have become an even more valuable source of work for the country’s law firms

Since Portuguese sailors began exploring the West Coast of Africa almost 600 years ago, the country has forged a reputation for venturing into new, overseas territories. Today, the countries of lusophone Africa and Brazil provide manifold investment opportunities for Portugal’s major corporates and their advisers.

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