Duane Morris Enters Sri Lankan Legal market

The Legal Intelligencer is reporting that Duane Morris is the first big law US firm to enter the Sri Lankan market


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Duane Morris appears to be the first U.S. law firm to enter the Sri Lankan legal market in some capacity.
The firm said Tuesday that it had formed an alliance with Colombo, Sri Lanka-based law firm Gowers International Legal Consultants & Corporate Lawyers through Duane Morris’ Singapore-based joint venture Duane Morris & Selvam.
Gowers is a 25-lawyer, full-service firm based in Sri Lanka’s largest city and its economic capital, Duane Morris said.
Duane Morris has taken a unique expansion strategy throughout Asia, using its joint venture in Singapore and offices in Vietnam as a springboard for entering Shanghai earlier this year, Myanmar last year and for handling work across Indonesia, Cambodia, India, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Korea, Japan and Thailand.
The firm also became one of only a few U.S. shops to open an office in Oman with its March 2013 joint venture with Al Mashaikhi and Partners Law Firm in Muscat, Oman.
Sri Lanka liberalized its economy in the 1970s but experienced 26 years of civil unrest, corruption and a civil war that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths among the 21 million-person population. The civil war ended in 2009 and, according to Duane Morris and others, the country has since experienced strong economic growth with government-led investment into reconstruction and development projects and increased industrial, agricultural and service sector productivity.
The CIA’s World Factbook notes that while Sri Lanka continues to see economic growth, its government debt of about 80 percent of the country’s gross domestic product continues to be among the highest of emerging market economies and low tax revenue remains a concern.
Duane Morris noted that the Sri Lankan government has enacted several targeted laws and policies aimed at improving the international investment climate. The state-run Board of Investment oversees all foreign direct investment, facilitating new projects and offering incentives to potential investors, the firm said.
As a result, the firm said, Sri Lanka’s GDP expanded 7.3 percent in 2013. Between 2009 and 2013, the country’s GDP per capita grew by 59 percent. It also received more than $1.4 billion in foreign direct investment, with more than one-third flowing from China and Hong Kong, according to Duane Morris.
“With such impressive growth in Sri Lanka during the past five years, we have felt significant demand for dedicated and experienced counsel in Colombo. In partnering with Gowers International, we are pleased to immediately offer the legal resources to invest and thrive there,” said Krishna Ramachandra, managing director of Duane Morris & Selvam and a Sri Lankan native who has lived in Singapore since the 1970s. “Likewise, our team in Singapore and across Asia is well-situated to advise Sri Lankan businesses in a wide range of complex matters.”
The alliance with Gowers formalizes Duane Morris & Selvam’s existing networking relationship with the firm in which they collaborated on matters across Asia, particularly in the area of international corporate transactions.
Kuvera de Zoysa, managing partner of Gowers, said in a statement that the partnership allows his firm to offer cross-border practice strengths in areas central to Sri Lanka’s economic development, such as project finance, mergers and acquisitions, international banking, international commercial arbitration and maritime law.
Duane Morris Chairman John Soroko called Sri Lanka a “promising market,” saying in a statement that the alliance will give the firm’s clients access to lawyers on the ground in the country.
Gowers focuses its practice on the representation of foreign and domestic clients involved with industries such as construction, real estate, banking and finance, aviation, shipping, insurance and sports ventures.
Soroko said in an interview Tuesday that Duane Morris didn’t even explore how and whether a U.S. firm could open its own office in Sri Lanka because its interests were always simply to expand its networking relationship into a more formal alliance.
“It’s certainly not a joint practice of law, but it’s a coordination of our efforts and resources,” Soroko said. “We are going to partner with them, not necessarily in the strict legal sense, but in the practical sense. The firms will remain independent.”
Soroko said the alliance will have a marketing element, a bit of a co-branding element and the firms will work together on a certain set of mutual clients. He said each firm will be paid its own fees.
The previous networking arrangement was borne out of shared clients between de Zoysa and Singapore-based Ramachandra, Soroko said.
“Sri Lanka is a very active market for investment flowing in from Singapore and there’s a lot of trade investment and development activity flowing in both directions, and our Singapore office had had a good stable of clients from Sri Lanka,” Soroko said, noting his firm worked with Gowers on many of those matters.
Soroko said the formal alliance officially began in mid-August. He said there are no plans at this point for the firm to open its own office in Sri Lanka. Soroko said that, at this point, he thinks the firm has opened in the markets it can in Asia.
“We are very keen on developing an India practice,” Soroko said. “We have to find ways to do it that are consistent with practice rules in India that are very tough on foreign firms moving in.”
Duane Morris currently handles matters for Indian companies through its U.S., U.K. and Southeast Asia offices, Soroko said.
“The $64,000 question is how we can do more in the future and through what kinds of structures,” Soroko said. “But certainly Sri Lanka is moving close if only geographically.”

Read more: http://www.thelegalintelligencer.com/id=1202669481681/Duane-Morris-Forms-Alliance-to-Enter-Sri-Lankan-Market#ixzz3Csv0JUzh