Legal Market Overview
Latvia has a vibrant and diversified economy, which has been historically associated with its natural resources in forestry and fishing. Since the 2008 financial crisis, the government has encouraged start-ups to set up in Latvia, which has led to a thriving fintech sector. Moreover, the country is a strategic transport hub due to its location between Russia and Europe.
Since its independence from the Soviet Union, Latvia has continuously encouraged investment through its memberships of the EU and Eurozone, as well as being part of the Schengen Area. Latvia also enjoys strong relationships with its fellow Baltic countries, Estonia and Lithuania. Typically, major inbound investors will adopt a ‘pan-Baltic’ approach and invest in all three countries.
One of the key concerns for investors was a major money-laundering scandal in 2019 involving local bank ABLV. This resulted in the government significantly strengthening its anti-money laundering legal framework and, in March 2020, the State Police Economic Crimes Enforcement Unit began 50 criminal proceedings concerning possible money laundering through the bank.
The Latvian legal market has been shaped by the country’s strong relationships in the Baltics, with many Latvian law firms also having offices in Estonia and Lithuania. In fact, the market is dominated by four pan-Baltic firms: Ellex, Sorainen, Cobalt and TGS Baltic. At present, Eversheds Sutherland Bitāns is the most prominent international law firm with a presence in Riga. A recent shake-up in the market was the merger of Derling Primus’ Latvian office with Lithuanian firm WALLESS. Most lawyers in the market are English and Russian speaking.