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Regional Summaries

The Legal 500 Europe

Mike Nash Legal 500 Profile Photo

FROM THE EDITORS

Welcome to The Legal 500 Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Since 1991, we have been providing readers with an annually updated, impartial, third-party opinion on the leading law firms and lawyers in countries across the region, and the coverage extends to the Caucasus and Central Asia. Current rankings and information online are taken from The Legal 500 Europe, Middle East and Africa 2017 edition, which was published on 12 April 2017.

The EMEA guide provides researched coverage of 81 countries and over 2,700 ranked law firms. Law firms pay nothing to participate and so we are free to make ranking decisions on merit alone.

Our research is conducted annually, providing a detailed qualitative assessment of various factors including work conducted by law firms over the past 12 months and historically; experience and depth of teams; specialisms and ancillary services; and, importantly, opinions of law firms’ clients – each year, The Legal 500 series contacts over 300,000 clients globally to obtain feedback on which law firms meet the criteria required by today's in-house counsel and business leaders, wherever in the world their work takes them. All of this is used to benchmark each law firm versus competitors in the practice area in question.

The Legal 500 EMEA 2017 Launch date

The Legal 500 EMEA 2017 edition is now live.

What's new?

This edition introduces coverage of Afghanistan and Ethiopia. We have also added several new practice areas across numerous different countries.

Upcoming research

The EMEA 2018 research schedule and guidelines will be available in early May 2017, with research taking place in autumn (fall) 2017.

Feedback or queries

If you have queries or feedback of any kind regarding The Legal 500 series, please email your query to us at editorial@legal500.com. We welcome suggestions for new legal market coverage desired by our readers.


Mike Nash
Senior Editor, The Legal 500 EMEA

Ella Marshall
Editor, CEE/CIS
Editor, Portugal and Spain

Jonathan Armstrong
Editor, The Legal 500 Middle East & Africa

Country Spotlights

France

France’s highly sophisticated and dynamic legal market continues its internationalisation. Very few top-end matters handled by firms are purely domestic in nature, indeed the bulk of transactional work handled by ranked law firms, particularly for M&A teams, is now cross-border. With close to 300 firms ranked, there is no shortage of international expertise in the country, including at the many US and UK headquartered firms that have offices in Paris. Several French law firms have extensive networks of offices; Gide Loyrette Nouel A.A.R.P.I. leads in this regard, fielding close to 600 lawyers across several continents.

The size of the market also means there are regular partner moves and several UK-headquartered firms saw partners leave for US rivals, including Orrick Rambaud Martel taking a handful of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP lawyers. There was activity on the merger front too, with LPA-CGR created in November 2016 and CMS and Olswang France LLP set to merge in May 2017.

Ireland

A fine example of a turnaround economy, Ireland has bounced back from its bailout years and is now one of the best-performing economies in the Eurozone and the wider EU. Property investment and construction, private equity deals and a raft of reverse takeovers contributed to a heady couple of years for the market, which also has robust tech and renewable energy sectors. Furthermore, the impending Brexit of the UK – Ireland’s major trade partner – has opened opportunities as companies explore the possibilities and necessities of relocating part or all of their back office functions to Ireland in order to remain in the EU.

If there are clouds on the silver lining, it’s the possibility of US crackdowns on reverse takeovers and the European Commission (EC) decision to rule that Irish tax benefits granted to Apple Inc constituted a form of illegal state aid leaves questions over future tax status and a hefty bill to foot.

The market is replete with sophisticated local law firms, the largest of which operate on an all-Ireland basis (with offices in Dublin and Belfast) and several have offices in London, New York and/or key European cities. Brexit repercussions have increased interest from UK law firms looking at possibly entering the Irish legal market, where Eversheds Sutherland and offshore firms Walkers and Maples and Calder already have established significant positions.

Israel

Israel has the most lawyers per capita of any country in the world; unsurprisingly, therefore, it has an extremely competitive legal market. While the market is technically open to foreign firms, the fact that there is a very strong pool of highly qualified local lawyers, many of whom have spent years working at large international firms and charging comparatively low rates means few international firms actually have offices in the country. Greenberg Traurig P.A is a notable exception, with a small but growing presence. Israel’s home-grown law firms have upscaled in size and numbers in recent years and the largest are now very significant for the size of market. Israeli full-service firms with the most rankings include Herzog Fox & Neeman, Meitar Liquornik Geva Leshem Tal Law Offices, S. Horowitz & Co, Fischer Behar Chen Well Orion & Co, Goldfarb Seligman & Co. and Yigal Arnon & Co.

Italy

A market driven by its many SMEs, Italy’s economy is growing – slowly, but growing. Its renowned luxury goods sector is accompanied by strong furniture businesses and robust manufacturing industries. Chinese investment is substantial – with more Chinese money invested in Italy than any other Eurozone market – but crisis in the banking sector, loaded as it is with €360bn worth of non-performing loans, is a cause for concern, as well as an opportunity for others.

The legal market mirrors the economy, being populated by law firms of modest numbers and formed of a mix of good local firms and growing numbers of international competitors, including the longstanding presence of Magic Circle firms. Dentons has invested heavily in the past two years since entering the market in 2015, Fieldfisher is another recent entrant, and Gattai Minoli Agostinelli & Partners is an emergent local powerhouse after being founded in 2012. BonelliErede made notable moves outbound in 2016 when it opened offices in Egypt and Ethiopia, adding to its international offices in London and Brussels.

Romania

Romania is CEE’s fastest growing economy and an appealing destination for regional investors, although domestic M&A still dominates the market, in part driven by generational succession issues in owner-managed businesses, a sector that is a key element of the economy. There has also been a recent trend towards consolidation in areas such as fast moving consumer goods and medical services.

The legal market is highly competitive, consisting of a healthy mix of local and international firms, as well as a raft of good young firms founded by lawyers who have split out from more established players. Interestingly, the market also has a high proportion of females in senior roles and one all-female boutique, the PPP-focused VASS Lawyers.

Russia

Russia’s economy continues to be impacted by the international sanctions imposed on the country, together with the global decline in oil prices. Yet the full impact of the sanctions could have been much greater were it not somewhat mitigated by increased investment in the country from China and the Far East in projects and joint ventures in areas such as transport infrastructure, oil and gas and consumer goods. As a result, law firms have picked up Chinese banks, corporates and private equity funds as new clients. The market includes prominent Russian firms competing with several heavyweight international players, and a large number of good smaller operations.

South Africa

As the largest economy on its continent, South Africa attracts substantial and growing inbound investment and its legal market has become particularly dynamic as a result. The combination of economic stability, English language capabilities and a market-based economy makes it an obvious choice for international firms looking to establish a presence in Africa; recent new entrants include DLA Piper and Pinsent Masons LLP. Several South Africa-headquartered firms, including ENSafrica and Bowmans, are also particularly active across the continent, serving clients through associated office networks spanning Sub-Saharan Africa.

UAE

The UAE serves as a regional business hub, making it an attractive destination for international law firms to set up offices from which they serve a very wide range of clients. Local firms compete directly with their international counterparts, resulting in a vibrant but crowded legal market. In Dubai, the city of choice for most market participants, the DIFC is a common-law governed independent free zone which acts as an international financial centre and regional hub for arbitration. International law firms are shifting away from the older philosophy of maintaining offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, in favour of pooling resources in the latter. Renewable energy, construction and real estate, healthcare infrastructure and hospitality are particularly active sectors; the market is also a global hub of Islamic finance; several firms specialising in the laws of offshore jurisdictions also have a notable presence.

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Rankings Spotlight

Wolf Theiss
www.wolftheiss.com

Wolf Theiss opened its first office in Vienna in 1957 and soon established a reputation as one of the region’s leading law firms. The firm has since grown into a multinational team of approximately 320 lawyers, making it one of the largest integrated law firms in the region. It has offices* in Albania, Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia and Ukraine...