Allens Arthur Robinson has become the first Australian law firm to open an office in Mongolia.
The firm finalised a lease agreement on premises in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, late last week. Energy and resources lawyer Erin Feros told Lawyers Weekly that the firm's signage should be going up today (11 November), and the requisite support systems should also be in place.
"We have had our IT people up there connecting everything up," said Feros. "That has happened now and we will be ready to go from today."
Allens has been eyeing an office in Mongolia for some time now, with the firm joining the Business Council of Mongolia in August as a precursor to today's announcement.
One of the firm's biggest clients Rio Tinto, is also a member of the Business Council of Mongolia and is acting on the joint venture Mongolian Oyu Tolgoi project, the world's largest undeveloped copper and gold mine.
Allens also counts the First Reserve Corporation -- one of the world's largest private equity consortiums --, Extract Resources Limited and Calibre Global as clients for whom the firm acts in Mongolia.
Feros said "the fact that so many of our clients are up there now" is the main reason for the establishment of a base in Ulaanbaatar.
"It is important to be linked into the business community," said Feros. "We found it is a different culture, a different way of doing things and we really do need to have face to face meetings and you need to understand what is going on and have your eyes and ears on the ground to provide it."
No full-time staff
Allens will not initially have any staff permanently based in its Mongolian office.
Hong Kong based partner David Wenger will be the firm's chief Mongolian representative. Feros said that Allens deliberately chose to pursue a model where staff would be on the ground in Mongolia on a case by case basis.
"What we have found is that we are doing work for a variety of clients, and the relationship partners and their staff are the ones going up there," she said. "To have a generalist on the ground isn't really what we see as necessary in that market to help us follow our clients into the new region."
It is expected that Allens staff from the firm's Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai office will predominantly service the Ulaanbaatar office. Energy and resources partners such as Feros, her Brisbane based colleague and infrastructure specialist Ren Niemann, the firm's Rio Tinto relationship partner, Scott Langford, and Kate Axup, who is relocating from Melbourne to be the firm's chief representative in Beijing from 2012, are also expected to frequently visit Mongolia.
Only a handful of global law firms have offices in Mongolia, with Anderson & Anderson LLP, Lynch & Mahoney and the large Chinese firm Lehman, Lee & Xu amongst those with a dedicated office in Ulaanbaatar. In March this year DLA Piper announced it had entered into a formal association with Mongolian firm C&G Partners.