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Legal market overview
The Israeli legal market is highly competitive and dynamic: it is a jurisdiction with a very high number of lawyers per capita, and below its upper echelon of robust full-service firms, there is a bustling market of smaller firms and boutiques to which clients tend to be loyal. However, in recent years there have been signs that the market might be ready for change and in 2012 it was opened up to competition from foreign law firms. Although the number of foreign firms is small thus far, some are operating already: Greenberg Traurig P.A handles large corporate work on behalf of Israeli clients such as Teva and Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP also has a representative office in the jurisdiction. Chinese firm Yingke Law Firm’s recent merger with boutique offering Eyal Khayat Zolty, Neiger & Co. to create Yingke Israel – Eyal Khayat, Zolty, Neiger & Co., Law Offices might provide a possible template for foreign firms going forward.
2013 was also notable for two significant mergers among domestic law firms: in April, Shibolet & Co subsumed J. Zaltzman, Gilat, Knoller, Graus, Salomon Law Firm; and, in May, Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer merged with Baratz & Co to form Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer Baratz. Another notable development was highly regarded tax specialist Eldar Ben-Ruby and hi-tech specialist Alon Sahar both moving from Herzog Fox & Neeman to Meitar Liquornik Geva Leshem Tal Law offices.
In terms of industry sectors, the country’s powerhouse hi-tech industry remains a key driver; the demand for real estate has kept lawyers busy in that sector; and the energy market is booming as participants prepare to exploit oil and gas reserves such as the Tamar gas field. While capital markets activity has been relatively subdued in recent times, there are signs of revival. On the corporate front, 2013 witnessed some large transactions, perhaps most notably Google’s $1.15bn acquisition of Waze.