#Asialaw issues

Ambitious or just blind hopeful? – Clifford Chance look to grow Asia revenue by £50 million

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On the train ride to work today I read a briefing update on the Australasian Lawyer website that the newly elected Managing Partner of Clifford Chance, Matthew Layton, had announced that the firm aims to raise revenue in Asia by 25 per cent.

Now the first thing I should say about this is that I haven’t been able to verify the source for this briefing update. The second thing I should say is that I know a number of key people – both on the management and fee earning sides – at Clifford Chance in Asia.

Putting that aside however, and on the back of the news that Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson is to effectively close its Hong Kong and Shanghai offices and pull out of Asia (there remains some debate whether the firm will retain a representative office in Hong Kong and there is also a suggestion that the firm will not relinquish its Shanghai licence), and bearing in mind that Clifford Chance LLP’s announced earnings for its Asia Pacific operations in 2014 were £195 million (significantly up from 2013 announced earnings of £179 million but only marginally up from announced 2012 earnings of £181 million), I’m left wondering:

where do Clifford Chance see themselves earning an additional circa £50 million in Asia in 2015-16?

Because, while I wish  Matthew Layton, Caroline Firstbrook, Bas Borris Visser and everyone else at Clifford Chance the very best of luck, I’m not sure that:

“embrac[ing] technology and flexible working and service models as key elements for [the] expansion”

will cut it. And I somehow think the management teams of a number of other firms in the region (including those at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson) would agree.

Singapore takes another step closer to being the regional centre for arbitration and mediation resolution work

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Last Monday, 5 January 2015 marked the start of the legal year in Singapore and with it the opening of its latest court – the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC).

With an initial make-up of 11 current and former judges, hailing from a combination of seven common and civil law jurisdictions (Australia, Austria, France, Hong Kong, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States), the SICC aims to become the World court for international commercial disputes and is the latest development in an ongoing concerted effort by the Singaporean government to make this island state the centre for arbitration and mediation in the region that first began way back in July 1991 with the establishment of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) and has, more recently, included the opening of the Singapore International Arbitration Academy in 2012 to help develop practitioners´ arbitration knowledge and skills and the Singapore International Mediation Court (SIMC) in March 2014.

As the epicentre of international trade increasingly moves from the more court litigious West to a more negotiated dispute resolution culture in the East, there is little doubt that this strong initiative by Singapore will pay dividends in the near term. Indeed, with already near to US$2 billion in annual revenue for Singapore-based legal services practitioners, it could be said that it already is.

While it can also undoubtedly be said that Singapore’s aggressive marketing of itself as a centre for mediation and arbitration work – which includes a very generous tax treatment on revenues generated locally for this type of work – is aimed at the slightly older, and previously more successful, Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC), it’s hard to see how these developments cannot have anything but a negtative impact on the ambitions of the Federal and NSW State governments to promote the Australian Centre for International Arbitration (ACIA) as the regional centre for arbitration and mediation resolution work. Indeed it will be interesting to see what, if any, response the Federal government, NSW government and ACIA have to these latest regional developments.

In the meantime, Singapore’s proximity to India, its long tradition of being a proponent of the rule of law, as well as the ongoing preparations for ASEAN integration later this year are all likely going to go a long way to helping ensure that the SICC achieve its ambition of becoming “Asia’s First Choice” for commercial dispute settlements.

 

Law firms are failing to support clients in South East Asia – really?

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Yesterday I read an article on the lawyersweekly.com.au website by Felicity Nelson titled Law firms are failing to support clients in South East Asia‘. This article cites recent research done by Acitas, including:

  • 45 per cent of multinationals require legal advice in South East Asia;
  • 34 per cent of Australian multinationals’ legal spend now goes outside their home jurisdiction; and
  • 60 per cent of Australian in-house counsel surveyed said they needed legal advice in South East Asia

There is no doubt in my mind that Acitas research is both good and thorough. I have high regard for them.

But there is one niggling issue I have with the title of this article and that is this: while it would be fair to ‘Australian’ law firms (such as Minter Ellison or Clayton Utz) are not particularly active on the ground in South East Asia – and we can debate the merits of that strategy till the sun comes up – it’s a far cry to then extend that argument to say:

 Law firms are failing to support clients in South East Asia.

And why do I say this?

Well, some firms with a presence is South East Asia and Australia – and who therefore must have a strategic plan around meeting their multinational clients needs in both jurisdictions – include:

  • Allen & Overy
  • Baker & McKenzie
  • Clifford Chance
  • DLA Piper
  • Linklates – Allens
  • Norton Rose Fulbright

Keep in mind that these are international law firms with an actual presence in South East Asia and Australia with a declared strategy of having multiple offices in order to meet the needs of their multinational clients. They’re not ‘fly-in, fly-out‘ operators; so they don’t have to worry about some of the very real strategic and cost issues that Lisa Hart Shepherd, CEO of Acritas, points out in the article and which I made only yesterday around organic growth and local knowledge acquisition!

My only question having read Nelson’s article is this then:

What the Hell are these firms doing if, as is alluded to in the article title, a large proportion of Australian and multinationals in-house counsels’ needs in South East Asia are going unmet?

and having read the results of Acritas’ survey in the article,

What do these firms plan to do to meet these very real needs now?

 

* I would recommend you read the Lawyers Weekly article, it raises w hole host of additional issues not covered in this post

Does my law firm need an Asian strategy?

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I go to a lot of meetings at which the state of the Asian* legal market is discussed during the course of a year. At a lot of these meetings, it is taken as a given that the relevant/respective law firm “needs” to either be in Asia, have an Asian strategy, or both. But, as is the case with a lot of prospect mining in this industry, short consideration seems to be given to the pitfalls of getting involved, and the most important strategic question of the lot:

Why?

as in:

Why do we (as a firm) even want to be involved in the cutthroat market of Asia?

is all but glossed over.

Keep in mind that most law firms won’t make money in their first few years of involvement in the region (and I should know, I have first-hand experience helping with the success of a start-up law firm that later became part of Clifford Chance). Indeed, some firms have been active in Asia for over a decade and still haven’t made any real money (and now exist on the principal that they have “a lot invested in the region”). And with a number of firms saying they want to grow revenue by 30 or so per cent year-on-year, if you do decide to get involved in the region then your firm’s commitment can easily and quickly translate into millions of dollars.

With all of this in mind then, it is important that your strategic reasons for being involved are more than simply a partner’s desire to live somewhere a little more exotic than cold, windy [insert name of city] or because you heard on your train ride to work this morning that XYZ company may give you a job in Rangoon at some unspecified time in the future.

More specific questions your firm needs to be asking include:

  • does the firm have short-term, medium-term and long-term strategic goals in place that will help measure whether your foray into the market has been a success?
  • has the firm identified which of your existing client base is active in the region?
  • do any of your firm’s clients have strategic growth plans for the Asian market?
  • are your firm’s potential clients in the region growth prospects, or are they mature players whose account you need to keep?
  • is your firm pursuing an aggressive acquisition policy or more conservative rear-guard protectionist policy?
  • how are looking to grow in Asia – lateral hires in the markets we want to be in (preferred method for South East Asia)? Or are we relocating partners from elsewhere into the jurisdiction (favoured method in Korea for example)?
  • what performance related metrics has the firm put in place to encourage its partners to be actively involved in the strategy (for example, is there cross-referral profit points?)?
  • what local issues will the firm need to include? – For example, how many law firms send lawyers to Asia without sending them on a cultural awareness or language program (in the same way as government departments do)? Why is that I wonder?
  • what are your competition currently doing/likely to do in the near future in the region? Importantly, do they have a chequebook that is likely to cause me considerable pain?

These are just some of the issues your firm should be thinking through if it wants to get involved in the potentially lucrative Asian market.

And the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

  • The Asia-Pacific legal services market had total revenues of $80.4bn in 2013
  • The Asia-Pacific legal services market enjoyed compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.9% between 2009 and 2013
  • The Asia-Pacific legal services market is forecast to enjoy an compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7% for the five-year period 2013 – 2018
  • The monetary value of the Asia-Pacific legal services market is forecast to be $112.9bn by the end of 2018

Unsurprisingly then, you won’t be alone. There were approximately half a million active lawyers in the Asia-Pacific legal services market 2013.

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* It is critical, when looking at your “Asian” strategy, that you think of the whole of Asia – Indonesia; Korea; Myanmar; Malaysia; Philippines; Singapore; Thailand; Taiwan; Vietnam; as well as China. In other words, Asia is more than just China. If China is your market strategy, that’s fine but don’t call it an “Asian” strategy, call it a “China” strategy. Likewise, if ASEAN is your target market, call it an ASEAN strategy, not Asian.

What are Asia regional in-house lawyers looking for from their outside counsel?

 

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The end of November saw Legal Week (legalweek.com) putting on the second of its Asia regional ‘Corporate Counsel Forum’ events in the Gallery Room of Singapore’s Grand Hyatt hotel.  Judging by the impressive collection of 220 regional in-house lawyers who attended, this event is likely now a firm fixture in the diaries of many in the industry. And rightly so. Events of this calibre are few and far between and should not only be welcomed, but encouraged.

Legal Week’s Elizabeth Broomhall wrote up a very succinct account of what took place at the Forum in a post on the Legal Week website on 5 December [2014].

In summarising the day’s events, and following subsequent discussions with Lucy Siebert, international counsel at Australia’s Telstra, and Julia Shtepa, managing director of legal for South Asia at Accenture, Elizabeth’s article highlights the following 5 issues (among more) as issues in-house team in the region have identified as being important to them when selecting outside counsel.

1.  Local or International?

It would appear that in-house counsel in Asia are not immune to a discussion that is taking place on a more global level; namely:- should we be hiring local or international law firms?

On the one hand, there are many benefits to hiring an international law firm to act on your matters. On the other, particularly in the mixed legal landscape of Asia (where common and civil law sit side-by-side), there really is no substitute for – as Siebert calls it – “on the ground knowledge”.

I would wholeheartedly agree that there are complex issues in play here, as it is indisputable that there are very clever lawyers working with leading country and regional law firms. That’s why I was particularly drawn to Shtepa’s comment that:

“Sometimes Accenture will engage an international firm to play a ‘deal coaching’ role, she said. “Depending on the regulatory environment and the language constraints, it may be that the deal is led by an international firm and supported by a local firm”.”

If you can afford it, then this seems to me to be a very clever approach to take.

Alternatively, a case could be made that in-house counsel in Asia, as is the case in other parts of the world, look to instruct the lawyer and not the law firm.

2.  Panel or no panel?

Client legal panel arrangements are the bane of many a private practice lawyer and their marketing team. Many an hour is spent responding to these and Australia, the home of Telstra, has undoubtedly played a major role in the development of this arrangement. Indeed, many of the ASX 200 have both Australia and Asia legal panels in place. So I was surprised to see Broomhall write that:

“many regional counsel believe these [panels] remain difficult in Asia given the limited capacity foreign law firms have compared with in their home markets, the different practice restrictions on foreign law firms across jurisdictions, the high turnover of partners in the region and the fluidity of the markets.”

While each of these is valid in their own right, none are unique to the region – and certainly would not seem to me to be an impediment to implementing a panel arrangement if the desire was there to do so. No, I would contend that there are two additional factors that mean panel arrangements are not, yet, as prevalent in Asia, which are: (1) relationships still trump all when assigning work; and (2) the rise of procurement is still to come.

That said, as Broomhall herself says: “An increasing number of companies, including Chinese state-owned organisations, have been moving in this direction in a bid to control costs” – and given the number of tender writing jobs that require local/regional language skills (notably Mandarin) that I have seen advertised in the last 3 months, my guess is that this [implementing panel arrangements] will be one of the major growth areas in 2015. Indeed, I will be interested to see what the position on this issue is at the Forum in 2015!

3. Where are all the Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs)?

Throughout my time in Asia, law firms have had to be very conscious of their cost-base as clients have always been value drivers. And with annual ROI profit margins of around 20% (which translates to probably the lowest ROI returns in the industry globally), many would say rightly so.

Leaving this aside however, I found myself in total agreement with the comment that when it comes to innovative fee arrangements, Asia lags behind the West.

Actually, with my interest having been spiked in this issue I went online to try and see how many firms had ‘on the ground’ regional Pricing Directors (a role that has seen phenomenal growth in both Europe and America, and less so here in Australia) and I couldn’t find one law firm that had an on the ground head of pricing present in the region.

All of which screams: law firms who can create opportunities to genuinely discuss the value exchange and AFAs with their clients have a massive opportunity to differentiate themselves in what is currently an extremely tight market.

4.  Secondments and other value adds

It was interesting to note that both Siebert and Shtepa agreed that “secondments are also an opportunity to add value”.

In my experience, the staffing structure of law firms in Asia – which need to necessarily be tight because of the control on costs – has, historically, not leant itself to law firms offering secondments to corporate clients (historically, as part of a global offering, financial institutions have tended to fair better here).

Clearly, going forward, one of two things will happen: either law firms will need to revisit this discussion, or New Law providers –such as Lawyers on Demand and Riverview Law – are going to find a very nice gap in the market – indeed, many may argue that Advent is already taking advantage of this exact situation.

And law firms who doubt this should note Siebert and Shtepa’s comment that:

“secondments help lawyers in private practice gain a better understanding of their businesses. Indeed, they believe this is the key overall message to get out to firms: get to know our business; understand our drivers.”

and one of the best ways to do that – a secondment.

5.  A more diverse profession

I wanted to finish this post on what I consider to be an important note of hope from Siebert’s comment that:

“We [Telstra] specifically look to see that they’re ensuring the best possible talent pool for us – not just white Anglo-Saxon males. We’ve got a very strong diversity policy and so we expect that to be something that is also important to our panel firms.”

If you haven’t already read Elizabeth’s article, I would like to strongly recommend that you wander on over there now…

Coming of Age in Asia

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2014 is slowing to drawing to a close, and with it a notable milestone in my career:-

2014 constitutes 18 years since I started working in the Asia-Pacific region; hence, the year I consider myself as coming of age in Asia.

If I’m completely honest, the start of my career in Asia was more of an accident than a plan. Having backpacked my way through South East Asia (SEA) in 1991, I had returned for a “brief” visit to see friends before moving on to live in Australia for a while. While there, I met a group of young lawyers who were looking to set up their own firm. They were full of vigour and had a zest for life I found infectious and, as luck would have it, it would be another 12 years (and several coup d’états) before I made it to the shores of Australia!

And so, in a reflective mood of nostalgia, I have decided to write down 10 things that remind me of those times to see how far, as a profession, we have progressed.

1. There was a financial crisis

I had hardly got my feet under the table when the Asian Financial Crisis (AFC) would hit in 1997.

What’s more, I was squarely in the epicentre of this crisis – later to be called the Tom Yum Goong effect (following the forced float of the Thai Baht) – and a whole bunch of lawyers in the region would find themselves retraining from being project finance, M&A and capital markets lawyers to bankruptcy and restructuring lawyers tout de suite.

The “internet” (pre-Google) was our new best friend and Chapter 11 was the new buzzword!

Not that I knew it then, but the AFC would play a major role in my career for many years to come.

(NB: I was later to arrive in Australia in 2007, a few months prior to the Global Financial Crisis (GFC))

2. International law firms were in expansion mode

International law firms operating in SEA in 1996 largely consisted of Baker & McKenzie and Freshfields. A number of others did have “best friend” status with local firms, but they had not made the move to hanging their own shingle on the door just yet. The operating strategy of the day was still “fly-in, fly-out” from Singapore or Hong Kong.

The considerable upswing in workout work following the AFC would fundamentally change this approach and it would not be long before Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Linklaters would all have local operations. Norton Rose would follow later. Coudert Brothers and White & Case would also operate locally (Coudert Brothers on the back of Freshfields closing down its operations).

Unlike later expansions undertaken by these firms however, all flew-in international partners (a number, including Linklaters, would later reduce or eliminate their “international partners” from on the ground in SEA for a “local partner” strategic approach), and all cited “assisting global clients locally” as the rationale for opening locally.

(NB: It is worth noting that a number of international law firms would continue to offer services in Indonesia and the Philippines on a “fly-in, fly-out” basis).

3. India and China were the future

Everyone you ran into in those days talked about the future being India and/or China (it would be some time before I would hear of the acronym “BRIC”, but accept it may have been in use then). The only problem at the time was that (a) India’s market was regulated, and (b) China’s market was very embolic – in those days, not too long after Mao, it was extremely difficult to find a mainland Chinese qualified lawyer who spoke English. Add to that the restrictions in place on mainland qualified lawyers and foreign firms acting on the ground in mainland China, and it was rare to find an international firm who had such an offering.

As would transpire, our approach to India would arguably prove to be the blueprint to the “sector” approach that would become all the rage in years to come. In India’s case, practices were set up in Singapore and Dubai (for proximity purposes) with “India desks” in London, Hong Kong and New York (at that time, most capital raisings being undertaken by India companies were NY-based 144a deals and if I was to be paid a $1 for every time I heard a NY qualified lawyer complain about direct flights between HK and Mumbai I would never have to work again!). The notable thing about these Indian practices? – they included capital markets, corporate and commercial, and finance lawyers sitting together in the same space.

18 years later and India and China are still the future. Meanwhile, a generation of lawyers have passed through the system.

4. Fee pressure was immense

Fee pressure was immense following the AFC – period!

99 per cent of the work assigned to lawyers went out on a competitive tender basis and, in many cases, firms would tender to do the work on a loss leading basis. Often the reason cited for this was “to keep our lawyers busy”.

Needless to say, those firms who didn’t smarten up to the tendering process and how to price work profitably were pretty quickly destined not to hang around.

(NB: so prevalent was competitive bidding at the time, that I heard of one occasion – unverified – where a firm ended up bidding against itself.)

5. Alternative fee arrangement (AFAs) were the rage!

The first AFA I ever saw was an agreement to do the legal work on an IPO in exchange for shares in the listing company (a practice that would later be prohibited by the regulators). I would soon see a “success fee” arrangement for a competitive bid of bankrupt assets and more “fixed fees” for loan workouts and debt repayment applications than you can poke a stick at.

All of these pre-dated the GFC in 2008.

So when I say to people there is absolutely nothing new with AFAs, I mean I can actually cite examples dating back to 1997 where we used alternatives to the hourly rate on a daily, if not hourly (pun intended), basis.

(NB: a firm I worked with had an annual retainer for a client in place in 1998)

6. Technology

Anyone remember the Y2K bug?

Oh what fun we had with that one! I don’t think I ever did work out how much we must have spent making sure we didn’t lose all of our clients’ records overnight. In a day when most of our computers weren’t even networked, technology was something we thought about constantly.

7. Outsourcing

A debate was taking place in the business at the time as to whether or not support services should be outsourced and lawyers should “concentrate on lawyering”.

At least one firm I know went down this path and outsourced its accounting and secretarial services (and later, marketing would also be outsourced). That firm is still operating on that basis to this day.

Another firm I know spun off its support services function into a limited liability company and then charged back the support services to the firm on an “as needs basis”. Unlike the previous example, this practice became too contentious and, as far as I am aware, the support service was brought back into the mainfold of the firm (but it is worth noting that a number of in-house legal teams would operate on very similar structures down the road).

8. Support services became its own business

Prior to 2000, most lawyers I knew did their own marketing, wrote their own tenders and were in charge of their own knowledge management and client updates.

A significant increase in global panel tendering for financial institutions and corporates, together with project based pitching, changed this approach. Add into the equation the rise of corporate events and directory listings (at that time, Martindale Hubble was the only real regional directory listing but Chambers and APL500 were just about to take off) meant a business case could now be put forward for specific support services.

Likewise, the need for precedent documents to help keep costs down when pricing for work, as well corporate intelligence on clients (used in things such as client meetings and tenders), client legal updates, and more general information management saw the development of the “professional support lawyer” / knowledge management role.

In sum, between 1998 and 2005, in my part of the world, support services rapidly became a business in its own right. Which is probably just as well for me.

9. Relationships trumped all

The relationship between a lawyer and their client trumped all – and it was as simple as that.

There was no such thing as “commercial” and “legal” conflicts, because there was a complete understanding that you would never act against the interests of your client. This was ingrained culturally. In times that pre-dated key account management, global account management, etc. lawyers knew everything about their client. They spoke with the client frequently and often met informally.

There were, however, two prevailing problems with this approach: (1) many client relationships were not that profitable and (2) we hadn’t yet worked that out yet!

This would change with time, and while I would argue that relationships still trump all in Asia, the level of sophistication surrounding the profitability of a relationship has improved significantly since those days.

10. It was fun!

Last, but not least, we had a lot of fun!

Yes, we worked long hours. But, we were young. And, we grew up together. Many of us went to each other’s weddings. We celebrated each other’s children being born. And we went to significant other events in each other’s lives.

(p.s., in days before the Asian Financial Crisis there was a restaurant in the old Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) building on Wireless Road that would set its lunchtime buffet price according to the [lunchtime] closing bell. It occurred to me when writing this post that it’s probably only now, 18 years later, that they would be able to get away with doing that again – if they still existed)

Which ‘top’ Australian law firms are struggling to enter Asia?

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The headline of the lead-off item in Friday’s (8/8/2014) Global Legal Post was:

Top Australian firms struggle to enter Asia

Pretty strong stuff, made all the more so by the first line of the post, which reads:

“BigLaw Australia has been ‘bitterly disappointed’ at its limited success in entering Asian markets, according to business consultant Dr George Beaton.”

The post left me wondering:

  • which ‘top’ Australian law firms are they referring to?, and
  • is it fair to say that “BigLaw Australia” has been ‘bitterly disappointed’ at its limited success in entering the Asian markets?

So, over the weekend I decided to take a look at this more closely. And, for the purposes of the remainder of this post I have limited my research to:

  • independent ‘Australian’ law firms (i.e., not international firms with an Australian presence),
  • with a presence on the ground in Asia (i.e., not looking at firms’ informal or formal referral arrangements – such as Advoc Asia, Lex Mundi or PRAC, which will likely be the subject of a future post).

Also, in undertaking this I have used the most recent ‘Top 10 Independent Australian Law Firms by Revenue’ list I could find – in this case, complied by the excellent Yun Kriegler (aka @TheLawyerAsia) in her 30 June 2014 analysts post for The LawyerAustralia: medium pace’.

So, here goes:

Top 10 Independent Australian Law Firm by revenue

Offices in Asia

1. Clayton Utz* None
2. Allens** Beijing, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Port Moresby, Singapore, Ulaanbaatar
3. Minter Ellison*** Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Ulaanbaatar
4. Corrs Chambers Westgarth None
5. Gadens Singapore, Port Moresby
6. Gilbert & Tobin None
7. HWL Ebsworth None
8. Maddocks None
9. Sparke Helmore None
10. McCullough Robertson None

* Clayton Utz hit the headlines earlier this year for scratching it’s HK association with Haley & Co. but I’m not sure this one incident is enough to warrant a headline like that above.

** Given Allens tie-up with Linklaters, it’s questionable how ‘independent’ the firm remains.

*** as far as I can see, Minter Ellison’s Asian offices are not financial integrated with the Australian operations.

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So,

  • 7 out of the Top 10 Independent Australian Law Firms by revenue have no on the ground presence in Asia at all,
  • for 2 out of the 3 that do have on the ground presence in Asia, it is questionable how financially linked their Asian offices are to the Australian operations, and
  • out of the 7 that currently have no on the ground presence, only Clayton Utz looks like it has attempted to create any on the ground presence in the past few years.

Which essentially leaves Gadens, listed at #5 on the list, as the only independent Australian law firm with any on the ground representation in mainland Asia itself (Singapore, where it doesn’t appear to have a local Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (QFLP) licence).

Overall then I think it is fair to say that that top Australian laws firms have not struggled to enter Asia – because they are simply not there in the first place and many of them have not even made an attempt to be there!

Is it also fair to say then that:

“BigLaw Australia has been ‘bitterly disappointed’ at its limited success in entering Asian markets”?

I’m not sure, because when you look at the published strategy of leading independent Australian law firms there appears to be three different approaches being adopted:

  • First, firms who are aligning with referral groups, such as Lex Mundi mentioned above,
  • Second, firms who are working off informal referral arrangements with firms operating in the Region, and
  • Third, firms who have decided to stay 100% Australian and are not looking at Asia in any great way for future development.

And so the honest answer is that this will take further analysis.

Now, if we were looking at how happy global firms with an Australian presence were with their Asian operations, then this would be a completely different post!

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