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Finding it difficult to compete for attorneys with local law firms, Morrison & Foerster announced last Thursday that it is closing its two-year-old office in Buenos Aires. In its stead, the firm has established a strategic alliance with the 22-lawyer Buenos Aires firm Alvarez Prado, Cabanellas & Kelly. “Local firms often have a leg up,” said MoFo chairman Keith Wetmore. “They have a local reputation.” It’s difficult to recruit in the local market when “competing with local pricing and talent,” Wetmore added. So MoFo decided it was better to “join them rather than beat them.” MoFo’s Argentinean outpost was initially set up in January 1999 to handle projects for a subsidiary of Enron Corp. The firm subsequently represented several Internet startups and investment banks in IPOs. MoFo’s clients include the auction site Deremate.com and the bookseller Yenny S.A., as well as several foreign companies doing business in Argentina, including Accor, a Paris-based travel and tourism company, and Overseas Private Investment Corp. based in Washington, D.C. Wetmore said clients will decide whether to transfer their business to Alvarez. “A number are already using both firms,” he said, which has made for “a fairly graceful transition.” Many MoFo attorneys are also likely to join Alvarez. The firm made offers to four of MoFo’s Argentinean attorneys. The remaining four U.S. attorneys will continue to handle Latin America work through MoFo’s U.S., European and Japanese offices. Under the alliance, MoFo will retain a toehold in Argentina, and Alvarez will have ties to MoFo’s 18 worldwide offices. “Establishing an alliance with such a prestigious international firm is a wonderful development,” Alvarez partner Guillermo Cabanellas said in a MoFo press release. “We think that the new relationship will be of great benefit to clients of both firms and for both our firms.”

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