The Legal 500: Europe, Middle East & Africa
The Legal 500 Europe, Middle East & Africa 2013 results are now live. The full in-depth, comprehensive analysis of law firms in 63 jurisdictions is available to view at www.legal500.com now - no registration or fee is required. The research can also be downloaded as a country-specific .epub or .mobi-formatted eBooks – ideal for use on Kindle, iPad, iPhone and Android/Blackberry readers. The Legal 500 EMEA eBook series provides easy, immediate access to the rankings and accompanying editorial, used by 4 million individual users each year, including 2.5 million corporate counsel.
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Now available: The Legal 500 Historical Data – a new interactive service available exclusively to commercial partners. The site contains historical rankings from 2008-2013 from The Legal 500 United Kingdom, United States, Europe, Middle East & Africa, and Asia Pacific. Users are able to manipulate the raw data to produce and download reports including comparing and contrasting your firm with your peers and competitors, and customising data which can be used in pitch documents and RFPs. Visit www.legal500.com/historicaldata for more information.
In 2012 the effects of the financial crisis were still keenly felt by the legal profession, and exacerbated by ongoing problems in the Eurozone. Competition remains tough, particularly among the leading firms, and after the demise of Howrey LLP the market lost another major international law firm when Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP ceased to exist. Meanwhile, clients who are exposed to growing requirements in the fields of compliance, risk management and corporate governance are, in turn, becoming ever more demanding with a consequent pressure on fees.
As clients’ needs change and become more sophisticated and more demanding of added value, many leading law firms in France are abandoning the full-service and departmental business model to focus on core practices. This has benefited local medium-sized and niche firms with dedicated expertise. Real estate is the latest example of this market trend, with high-profile teams leaving Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, Clifford Chance and Salans in 2012.
Spain’s ongoing economic difficulties affected law firms with continued downward pressure on fees. Market conditions dictated fewer transactions, but this was counteracted by a boom in areas such as litigation, arbitration and restructuring. Big-ticket private equity deals and IPOs virtually vanished. Government tax reforms led to increasing demand for tax-related advice, and employment law and insurance continued to be hugely active areas.
In South Africa’s highly fluid legal market, lateral hires are commonplace. The market was further altered by a number of law firm changes, notably with Baker & McKenzie entering the South African market in 2012, taking over a team from the defunct Dewey & LeBoeuf (PTY) Ltd’s Johannesburg office. It followed this by acquiring Johannesburg litigation boutique Rudolph Bernstein & Associates. A number of mergers completed in early 2013: these included ENS (Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs) joining with Brink Cohen Le Roux, and Canadian firm Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP merging with leading mining and project finance firm Bell Dewar.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
As other Middle Eastern countries continue to feel the effects of civil unrest and political instability, the UAE is increasingly being viewed as a stable platform for doing business across the region. The broader GCC region continues to be a key focus, with opportunities in Iraq in particular providing a regular flow of work, especially for law firms with robust oil and gas practices. Locally the retail and property sectors are also improving.Read more...
Portugal remains in the throes of a deep financial crisis. Despite the €78bn bailout that the country received in 2011 from the troika group (comprising the IMF, the EC and the ECB), times remain very difficult for the country. As decreed by the Memorandum of Understanding, Portugal began a series of privatisation procedures, and this has generated a substantial flow of work for law firms, advising interested bidders. Firms involved included Linklaters LLP, Morais Leitão, Galvão Teles, Soares da Silva & Associados, PLMJ Law Firm, Serra Lopes, Cortes Martins & Associados and Vieira de Almeida & Associados, as well as the key Iberian firms. The long-term effect of these privatisations and the presence of new investors, particularly from China, remains to be seen, but Portugal’s economic identity has changed significantly. Forthcoming privatisations include those of the airline TAP, and airport management company ANA – Aeroportos de Portugal.
The Swedish transactional market continued in a state of flux in 2012. A hoped-for third-quarter increase in deal volume failed to materialise and ministers downgraded official growth forecasts from 2.7% to 1.1% for 2013. Busier areas included the debt markets, outsourcing, insolvency and restructuring.
Greece’s dire economic situation continues to affect law firms and clients, and transactional activity has been significantly reduced. However, the country’s law firms are relatively small in size – the very largest ranging from between 50 to 100 lawyers – and so the redundancy rate has not been on the same scale as in larger markets such as the UK. Those lawyers who typically worked in finance, real estate, capital markets and M&A have moved into more active fields such as restructuring and insolvency. Unsurprisingly, employment, litigation and tax advice is still much in demand. Larger firms have also seen growth in privatisation instructions, and many represented the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) on its multi-faceted privatisation programme or acted for the various bidders tendering for assets.
The Netherlands is in a relatively stable position compared to other advanced economies, with a strong export position and friendly tax regime. The eurozone crisis and the EU were issues dominating the 2012 national elections, the results of which reflected a need for a stable, moderate government.
Pending reform of Russia’s civil code and its potential impact on the dominance of English law as the basis for major transactions is a hot topic for firms operating in the market – particularly Russian ones.
Having for some time seemed immune to the financial crisis affecting much of Europe, over the past 12 months Poland has experienced its first slump and there are numerous transactions pending instead of having been completed. Poland’s energy sector continues to endure a waiting game as new legislation is expected in early 2013. While this may have deterred banks from investing in energy projects, developers have explored alternative financing options and the market has seen an increase in joint ventures and mergers within energy.
There has been a recent influx of international law firms into the Moroccan legal market, drawn in by the strength of the economy and its usefulness as a gateway to Africa. Norton Rose Morocco SARL and Clifford Chance followed Naciri & Associés Allen & Overy by opening offices in 2011, and Baker & McKenzie Maroc SARL debuted in 2012 after bringing Kamal Nasrollah and a team of lawyers over from local firm August & Debouzy.