Middle East: New order

Middle East: New order

There is something momentous unfolding in the Gulf. The wave of protests and general revolutionary feeling that has swept through the Middle East since December 2010, otherwise known as the Arab Spring, has seen governments ousted in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, while civil unrest has even battered the traditionally stable reputations of financial centres such as Bahrain and Kuwait.

Law firms have been just as affected by the tide of uncertainty as any other business and the dramatic extent of regional turmoil has seen international law firms downsize in their droves across the Middle East. As traditional thinking goes, any degree of change creates opportunities; however, the sheer scale and velocity of the market disruption makes this particular situation uncharted territory. Generally speaking, firms remain optimistic about economic growth across the region’s hotspots and recruiters are already starting to see the market look towards replenishing those areas that were the first to be cut back in 2009 and early 2010. So it seems that the outlook for the main financial centres is one of subdued growth following a few lean years. How are the region’s law firms poised to meet demand? Continue reading “Middle East: New order”

Israel – Peak performance

Israel – Peak performance

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s ‘man on the ground’ in Tel Aviv, Adir Waldman, had a relatively typical New England upbringing. Having grown up in Fairfield, Connecticut, the academically gifted Waldman studied at nearby Yale University, before returning two years later to attend Yale Law School, where he became senior editor of The Yale Law Journal.

In between, Waldman took the unusual step of serving in the Israeli army for 18 months. ‘I had been accepted for law school and I knew that I didn’t want to go directly. Thankfully, Yale has a policy of actively encouraging students to take a year or two off to do interesting things,’ he says. The army was a positive experience and serves him well in his current position. ‘I certainly know most of my Hebrew from the army and I probably feel more at home here as a result,’ he comments. Continue reading “Israel – Peak performance”

Middle East – New ball game

Middle East – New ball game

On 2 December 2010 FIFA, the international governing body of football, officially announced that a desert state would be hosting the 2022 World Cup. Qatar, a country with a population of only 1.6 million people, endures average daytime temperatures in excess of 40°C in June and July. How will the players cope?

The bid chairman, and sixth son of the current Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani was unruffled: ‘We will have to take the help of technology to counter the harsh weather. We have already set in motion the process.’

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Middle East – Still standing

Middle East – Still standing

As the Arab Spring spreads across the Middle East, investors are flocking to safe ground. LB discovers which states will prosper and which have the most to lose.

It is late April and tanks are being deployed by security forces in Syria following the government’s inability to quell civil resistance protests. Of the long list of countries affected by political unrest recently, those that have hit the headlines most emphatically include Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen. But does this turmoil have the lawyers in the region’s main financial centres worried?

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Turkey – Bridging the Gap

Turkey – Bridging the Gap

As its economy booms Turkey has attracted the attention of the world’s legal market. Will Clifford Chance and DLA Piper’s arrival mark a new chapter for the country’s local firm?

Clifford Chance’s move into Istanbul didn’t exactly take the market by surprise. The announcement that the Magic Circle firm is to open an outpost in the Turkish city followed its 2009 hire of Mete Yegin from local heavyweight Pekin & Pekin. Required by local Bar rules to ally with a local firm, CC will now officially launch in conjunction with Yegin’s firm, Yegin Legal Consultancy.

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The right track

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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Changing tack

Changing tack

Amid leaner times in the Gulf and a flat economy in Dubai, international clients are moving their focus to other key Gulf states. LB canvasses the leading domestic and international firms and asks, what next?

In early 2012, the sailing dhows off the coast of Abu Dhabi will have some serious competition on their hands. The emirate is due to play host to the yachts of the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race, in another sign of its growing profile and confidence on the world stage.

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A hive of activity

A hive of activity

Israel has the highest number of lawyers per capita of any country in the world – one lawyer for every 166 people – and so far it has managed to keep them all busy. For a country with a population of 7.3 million, a legal profession boasting 44,000 participants is quite some feat (the UK has 150,000).

In the past decade many of the top Israeli firms have doubled in size and have regularly been outperforming the wider market. The economy has flourished, international business has taken off and law firms have reaped the rewards. Now they just have to keep up the momentum. Continue reading “A hive of activity”