Wednesday, March 19, 2014

BLP eyes Indonesia move as part of South East Asian growth plan

Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) is understood to be considering a tie-up with a local firm in Indonesia as part of a wider plan to tap emerging markets through its new BLP Asia network.

The firm, which recently formed an alliance with Legal Network Consultants (LNC) in Myanmar, is keen to boost the amount of work coming from existing clients in the region and also acquiring new mandates.

In recent years, South East Asia has attracted increasing attention from regional and international law firms due to mounting interest in investment by multinationals and high GDP growth.

BLP already has a network of preferred firms globally, but has set up the new vehicle with a view to forming associations specifically in ASEAN.

The initiative will involve secondment and training schemes between BLP and its relationship firms, as well as joint pitches for work and co-branding and co-marketing exercises.

"In certain countries we think it makes sense to work more closely with law firms we've already been working with," said the firm's managing partner Neville Eisenberg.

"That led us to form this arrangement in Myanmar. We are looking at other South East Asian countries and may well possibly bring others into the network.

"We're currently doing work for clients in Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Mongolia, Malaysia and Myanmar.

"[Where we look at depends] on the amount of work we are doing for clients, the opportunities that we think will come up in the future and of course whether the firms we work with are interested in having that closer working relationship.

"Doing it this way you save quite a bit of time and cost because you join with someone who is already on the ground and in a sense you are leveraging their experience and connections."

BLP is among a number of firms currently choosing this ‘association model' in Asia, instead of open offices and or securing mergers - deemed to be a more risky investment.

They include Bird & Bird, which has established similar, non-exclusive but preferred-partner relationships in Seoul and Australia, and Taylor Wessing, whose Singapore member firm RHT Law Taylor Wessing has entered Vietnam and Indonesia in the same way.

In the case of Bird & Bird the longer term plan is to integrate financially, but Eisenberg said this was not the goal for BLP.

"It's always a possibility to do mergers further down the line," he said, "but that's not our objective in this case."

BLP currently has three independent offices in Asia located in Hong Kong, Singapore and Beijing, the latter of which opened last February.

In Hong Kong the firm recently bulked up its finance team with the hire of Nigel Ward from Norton Rose Fulbright, and is expected to gradually add more bodies in its key practices there which include corporate, finance, infrastructure and real estate.

The firm was also one of the 19 firms who unsuccessfully applied for a Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (QFLP) or local licence in Singapore in September 2012, and among those who subsequently said they may look at a venture with a local outfit.

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