Two Am Law 100 Firms with California Roots Expand Abroad
Nathalie Pierrepont, The Am Law Daily
Article originally appeared on The American Lawyer
Two longtime Am Law 100 firms with home bases in the Bay Area announced additions to their global platform Monday.
Littler Mendelson’s growing Latin American presence is poised to get a boost with a new office in Peru on Nov. 1, while Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe is planting its first flag in Africa with an affiliated office in Abidjan, the capital of Cote d’Ivoire, also known as the Ivory Coast.
Orrick’s new office, which will operate under the name Orrick RCI, comes despite an Ebola virus pandemic that has claimed almost 4,500 lives in the region. The Am Law Daily reported last week that Orrick was one of several Am Law 100 firms seeking to cope with the outbreak’s effect on their work in Central and West Africa.
With a client roster that includes Actis Capital, the African Development Bank, Enel Green Power, General Electric, OPIC, Millicom and the Republic of Guinea, as well as several leading Chinese investors in the region, Orrick has been planning to set up shop in Western Africa for a few years, says Pascal Agboyibor, a native of Togo and the Paris-based head of the firm’s Africa practice.
“It was a strategy decision to support the business we already have,” he adds. “[Firm chair Mitchell Zuklie] was clear in his mind, before he proposed anything to the partnership.”
Orrick also considered planting its flag in the continent in Togo and Ghana, but the San Francisco-based firm sharpened its focus on the Ivory Coast last year after the Africa Development Bank announced its decision to relocate to the country from Tunisia. “It was a signal that the situation had improved there,” says Agboyibor of the Ivory Coast, which is recovering from almost a decade of civil war.
Counsel Karamoko Fadiga, who prior to joining Orrick RCI was the director of West African regional financial regulatory agency Conseil Régional de l’Epargne Publique et des Marchés Financiers, and Sydney Domoraud-Operi, of counsel in Orrick’s energy and infrastructure group in Paris for the past five years, will helm the firm’s new office in Abidjan.
Senior associate Doux Didier C Boua, who joined Orrick from Magic Circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer earlier this year, will transfer to Abidjan in mid-November. Orrick RCI will largely concentrate on capital markets work, infrastructure and natural resources in the region.
Orrick RCI will work closely with members of the firm’s 50-lawyer Africa team, including recent additions Jean-Jacques Essombè, a Cameroon native who came aboard earlier this month from the former Parisian affiliate of defunct Canadian firm Heenan Blaikie, and Colin Graham, a Hogan Lovells energy and infrastructure partner who joined Orrick’s London office in September.
The American Lawyer and Am Law Daily have previously reported on Africa’s allure as one of the world’s final frontiers for high-end legal services. A recent survey conducted by Freshfields found that the number of African private equity deals are on the rise, with transactions nearly doubling in value during the first six months of this year.
Orrick itself wasn’t the only global firm ramping up its Africa operations Monday.
Leading French firm Gide Loyrette Nouel and Iberian legal giant Cuatrecasas, Gonçalves Pereira announced the combination of their operations in Morocco. The expanded team, led by Gide partners Julien David and Jean-Francois Levraud, will have 17 lawyers and legal consultants focused on M&A, banking and finance, real estate, tax and commercial and public law in one of the continent’s most stable countries.
Africa isn’t the only emerging market to have cornered the interest of global and Am Law 100 firms. The Am Law Daily reported in September on Cuatrecasas rival Uria Menendez’s acquisition of a 30 percent stake in Philippi, Prietocarrizosa & Uria, the product of the first cross-border law firm merger in Latin America, as well as Dentons’ interest in evaluating merger opportunities in the region.
On Monday, San Francisco’s labor and employment legal giant Littler announced plans halfway across the globe to combine with Lima-based specialty boutique Estudio Gonzalez & Asociados (EGA), which was founded in 1991.
Littler’s Peruvian expansion comes a year after the firm announced its absorption of firms in Colombia and Costa Rica. Littler’s international offices, including its locations in those two countries and the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico and Venezuela, operate under a Swiss verein structure known as Littler Global.
Jeremy Roth, the firm’s comanaging director, says Littler would still like to be in Chile, Argentina and Guatemala. By expanding throughout South America, the firm is hoping to better serve Fortune 500 companies that “operate in every country on the planet,” Roth says. “All of those companies—to the extent they’re not franchises—want to reduce the number of law firms they use.”
Littler aims to position itself as a “single-source solution that offers one bill, one quality control … the first-stop shop,” Roth adds.
The six-lawyer Estudio Gonzalez team, which includes two partners, is led by César Gonzáles Hunt, who has represented several entities of the Peruvian government on employment issues, including the National Pension Office, the Congress of the Republic and the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
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