The Stealth Tactics Used By Law Firms To Enter The Massive, But Protected Asian Market

The rapid expansion of the Asian market, together with its deregulation and lowering of trade barriers, has helped businesses expand rapidly in the region, with one exception: law firms.

The legal profession has not enjoyed the same level of deregulation when handling cross-border work as the lawyers’ clients have enjoyed but they have used what the FT describes as “guile” to take advantage of growth in the region.

The Financial Times quote London-based professional services consultant Alan Hodgart, who predicts Asia-Pacific will become the world’s second largest regional legal market behind North America by 2018. In dollar terms that’s an increase from $109bn revenues in 2012 to $215bn.

This runs alongside the World Bank’s prediction that GDP growth in East Asia will continue at more than 6 per cent a year to 2018.

There will be much demand for lawyers to preside over international deals, mergers and arbitration — but they will have to innovate around regional strictures.

One of the chief problems for overseas law firms is gaining a presence in multiple, lucrative markets. The status of lawyers as “officers of the court” is a factor in this, says Tony Grundy, senior counsel at Japanese law firm Mori Hamada & Matsumoto. “Upholding the legal standards of a jurisdiction is part of national sovereignty, and the idea of all those firms being foreign-controlled makes people a bit nervous,” he says.

One of the methods used by the firms to circumnavigate their way around the protectionism shown towards the profession is to create strategic partnerships.  One such arrangement is that made by Mayer Brown to enter the Chinese market, where they partnered with  Jingtian & Gongcheng.

Other ‘stealth’ moves are also being made in a massive – and growing – legal market.

Read more at: Financial Times

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