The New Scramble For Markets

Published in Chambers Client Report, Autumn 2008

Client Report’s first Emerging Markets Survey reveals the progress being made by the world’s leading law firms – and the secrets to survival

For Rick Burdick, head of international corporate transactions at Akin Gump, 2008 got off to a bad start. On 1st January, he learnt that his firm’s Dubai office – its sole Middle East base – was moving to Dewey & LeBoeuf. “It was not how we envisioned our Middle East practice developing,” he deadpans. Instead of trying to rebuild the office, Akin Gump abandoned Dubai altogether, opening instead in Abu Dhabi a few months later.

The Washington, DC firm is not alone in its misfortune. These are not easy markets in which to thrive – or even survive. Client Report asked leading practitioners in the most exciting emerging markets about the keys to success on this frontier of law.

A gold rush?

Of the 36 firms who responded to our survey, 24 have opened a new office in at least one of our four main jurisdictions – Brazil, China, Russia and the UAE – since 2005. With the slowdown in Western corporate activity, these markets have become even more attractive. Some firms have a clear-eyed plan to establish themselves in response to client needs. Others, as one practitioner in Dubai put it, “think they can dump their under-utilised associates here and they’ll
magically pick up work.”

In fact, building a presence in these markets is difficult and demanding. On pages 38-50, we look at each jurisdiction in detail. Certain challenges, we found, are common across emerging markets.

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