find the latest legal job
Corporate Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Highly-respected, innovative and entrepreneurial Not-for-Profit · Competency based Board
View details
Chief Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Dynamic, high growth organisation · ASX listed market leader
View details
In-house Projects Lawyer | Renewables / Solar | 2-5 Years PQE
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: All Australia
· Help design the future · NASDAQ Listed
View details
Property lawyer - Melbourne
Category: Property Law | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Impressive client list, national firm · Well-led and high-performing team
View details
Senior family lawyer - Melbourne
Category: Family Law | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Outstanding national firm · High-calibre family law team
View details
No rush for Middle East moves: consultants

No rush for Middle East moves: consultants

WHILE THE number of international law firms setting up camp in the Middle East is growing at an exponential rate, commentators argue that Australian firms would be wise not to attempt expansion…

WHILE THE number of international law firms setting up camp in the Middle East is growing at an exponential rate, commentators argue that Australian firms would be wise not to attempt expansion into the area.

It may well be the fastest growing legal market in the world, as some argue, but Phil Clark, formerly managing partner of Minter Ellison and now a strategic management consultant, said he was “not convinced the Middle East is a good proposition for either Australia or New Zealand”.

“I’m not too wound up about the Middle East,” Clark said, explainingthat he struggled to see a real Australian investment connection with the region.

“There are certainly trade connections, but lawyers don’t make money out of trade, they make money out of investment, and I don’t think we have the investment flow there yet.”

International firm Baker & McKenzie has offices in the region. But Australian firms are thin on the ground, with only a handful retaining clients there. The offshore law firms operating there are primarily UK- or US-based — the latest include Ashurst, and shipping specialists Ince & Co and Hollman Fenwick & Willan.

Maciek Motylinsky, consultant at EA International, agreed that the market for Australian firms to expand “doesn’t go far beyond Asia”. He argued that the Middle East is a burgeoning market on the talent side, so lawyers will get there quite easily and that for them it is a very good career step.

But you need an established network in order to succeed in this market, he said. “As for the firms, any of the top six firms here will struggle to establish themselves in the Middle East because they don’t have the established relationships in the region.

“From an economic point of view, we’re seeing a lot of the international firms, that have the networks that you need in a market like Dubai to succeed, struggle — particularly at the initial stages.

“There is no reason to believe that Australian firms would be any different in that regard — and would in fact probably find it a lot more difficult because they don’t have the international networks and exposure from the work point of view,” said EA International’s Motylinsky.

He added that much of the work that international firms in the Middle East do is leveraged off other places, and other markets in which they work, particularly on the banking side. “You will see that firms that don’t have the international reputation or connections will really struggle to do well in the Middle East.”

There are no firms planning to do that, said Motylinsk, adding that there are good reasons for it.

A number of top UK firms have had offices in the Middle East for some time, including Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy, Denton Wilde Sapte and Simmons & Simmons. A host of Magic Circle firms are now setting up in the region, including Freshfields, Herbert Smith, DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary, and Linklaters.

But UK firms have “gone a little bit overboard on it — everybody’s there and they’re all ‘monstering’ the same deals,” Clark said. “I think it’s a fashionable thing at the moment — it’ll be interesting to see how it pans out in a year’s time. If I was running a law firm, I wouldn’t be rushing to get there.”

“It may be in five or 10 years’ time, if the Middle East lasts — and I’ve got some doubts about that — that there’ll be opportunities for Australian firms, but I don’t see them yet. I think for the short-term there’s going to be a talent bleed for Australia and New Zealand, rather than an opportunity. I just don’t see the synergies.”

Clark speculated that law firm expansion into the Middle East might be comparable to that into the Asian market, “where initially the UK firms come in, and they and the American firms control the investment flow and get first mover advantage, then work out it’s pretty hard slog, pick up stumps and go home”.

Additional reporting by Shaun Drummond.

Andrea Milner is the Editor of Lawyers Weeklys sister publication NZ Lawyer.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

No rush for Middle East moves: consultants
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Warning
Aug 23 2017
NT Law Society sounds alarm on mandatory sentencing
The Law Society Northern Territory has issued a warning over mandatory sentencing, saying it hasn’...
Unite
Aug 22 2017
Professionals unite in support of marriage equality
The presidents of representative bodies for solicitors, barristers and doctors in NSW have come toge...
Aug 21 2017
Is your firm on the right track for gig economy gains?
Promoted by Crowd & Co. The way we do business, where we work, how we engage with workers, ev...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...