By the end of 2011, the law firm of Baker & McKenzie is planning to open an office in Istanbul, Turkey. This will continue a trend that sees international law firms fighting for a share of Turkey’s increasing economic opportunities. Over the previous 18 months, a handful of law firms have opened offices in Istanbul, creating a crowded city in terms of legal help. Those law firms include Clifford Chance, DLA Piper, Kinstellar and Schoenherr. In October, Graf von Westphalen from Germany opened an office. Earlier this week, the London firm of Allen & Overy said it will be opening an office in Istanbul in the spring of 2012 according to Thomson Reuters News & Insights.
In 2010, Turkey experienced an 8.9 percent GDP growth rate, which was the highest of all the countries in Europe. Experts credit the increase to a robust energy sector and many infrastructure projects. Historically, Turkey has not been a hotbed for legal activity, but White & Case has a legal history in the country. Tony Williams is the principal of Jomati Consultants in London and is the former managing partner of Clifford Chance.
“Indeed, some firms see this as key to growing and keeping their clients when growth at home is at best constrained,” he said. “It is clear that many firms are looking for depth and breadth in emerging markets and will be redeploying lawyers from less busy U.S. and U.K. and European markets.”
Baker & McKenzie has formed an affiliation with Esin Attorney Partnership, a 40-lawyer firm in based in Istanbul, in accordance with the laws of Turkey. The Turkish firm practices corporate, real-estate and mergers and acquisitions cases. The Turkey law forces foreign law firms to partner with local law firms while also receiving approval from the Turkish Bar Association.
“The rules are designed to make sure local firms aren’t overwhelmed by competition,” Williams said.
Williams thinks that at some point, not soon though, that foreign law firms will be able to practice in Turkey without having to be affiliated with local law firms. This is happening in Japan and Singapore right now.
Daniel Matthews will be the head of the Baker office in Istanbul, who formerly managed the office in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital city. Law firms are citing an attraction to the location of Turkey, as it is located between Europe and the Middle East, making it a center for oil distribution and goods shipping according to Williams.
Ayse Yuksel is the managing partner of the New York law firm of Chadbourne & Parke’s office in Istanbul. The office in Istanbul has three lawyers and a tax advisor, which was launched in September.
Even though Williams claims there is optimism amongst the law firms opening offices in Turkey, experts are still waiting for the signs that the economy of the country will burn out. Should the growth for Turkey cut in half, its growth will still be well ahead of the rest of its neighbors. “That’s still 10 times more that the European Union for 2012,” Williams said.