UK law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP, the country's fifth largest, with 1,000 attorneys worldwide, is expanding to Israel, opening an office in Tel Aviv as part of the expansion of its international operations. The firm's customers include 59 companies on the Global Fortune 500 list. Its decision is a vote of confidence in Israeli economic growth.
Three BLP attorneys will manage the Israeli office: partner Paul Miller (48), who specializes in corporate finance, financial services, and the capital market; partner Jonathan Morris (47), an expert in mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance; and an Israeli, hired locally, Yonatan Beck (32), an expert in venture capital funds and mergers and acquisitions.
Miller, who moved to Israel with his family five years ago, says that BLP spotted Israel's business potential in the 1990s, and began working in Israel, and continued, even during the difficult security and economic times in the early 2000s.
Miller says, "We continued to do business in Israel, and even expanded it, because Israel isn't a trend for us. We're here because the Israeli business world is heading in directions which we see as markets of the future, like China and the Far East. We can open the international market to Israeli companies, and we offer our clients an extensive system of networking."
Miller says that BLP has been active in Israel for almost 20 years, and has a broad, strong base of Israeli clients and clients with Israeli ties, such as Bank Hapoalim (TASE: POLI), Bank Leumi (TASE: LUMI), El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. (TASE: ELAL), Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (NYSE: TEVA; TASE: TEVA), Clal Insurance Enterprises Holdings Ltd. (TASE: CLIS), and Elbit Systems Ltd. (Nasdaq: ESLT; TASE: ESLT). "Business in Israel is not new to us, and the expansion is a natural step," he says.
"Globes": You've been operating in Israel for a long time. Why do you want to set up an office here now?
Miller: "The objective is to further increase our business in Israel, including our current client base and linking Israeli companies to the global market. Our presence in Israel will boost our exposure to the market, and bring us closer to current clients, so that we will be able to give them greater attention, as well as offering services to new and potential clients."
Miller says that BLP sees the steady business growth of Israeli companies' activity in international markets as an opportunity to provide them with outstanding legal expertise which is hard to come by in Israel. "Israeli companies are open to ideas, and we have the means to create ties at the international level through our extensive network. We attribute great importance to networking and our ability to join the dots. This ability, which differentiates us from our competitors, was one of the factors behind the Israeli government's decision to open the legal market to foreign firms."
Aren't you worried about Israel's economic situation?
"No. The firm's expansion into the Israeli market is a vote of confidence in the Israeli economy. As it grows and becomes export-oriented, the legal services market changes too. The steady growth of Israeli companies in international markets means that they need expert legal advice on complex international transactions."
Should Israeli law firms fear competition?
"We have no intention of competing against Israeli firms for local work (related to Israeli law). Our focus is on complex international transactions, whether they are carried out in Tel Aviv, or London, or anywhere in the world. In the Israeli market, we see interesting opportunities in the energy sector, which is very developed at our firm, and where we have a wealth of experience, both in general financing and in project financing; in infrastructures; in mergers and acquisitions; and in raising capital on various markets around the world. Since the local market is still in the development stage in this area, it's an opportunity for us to bring to bear our international experience."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on October 29, 2012
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