Berwin Leighton Paisner is closing its office in Myanmar—less than two-and-a-half years after launching an office there.
The firm opened in the country in late 2015 when it hired Baker McKenzie’s former Yangon office managing partner and corporate finance partner Chris Hughes to lead the launch. Now, Hughes and his team, made up of four Myanmar-based lawyers, according to the firm’s website, will leave the firm.
Berwin Leighton said in a statement that the majority of Myanmar-related work is currently conducted from the firm’s Singapore office. “The flow of locally generated business does not justify currently maintaining a physical presence on the ground,” the firm said.
The closure leaves Berwin Leighton with four Asia offices—in Beijing, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Singapore.
“Having worked on market-leading transactions in this market since 2012, Berwin Leighton Paisner remains committed to our Myanmar-related practice and clients, and will continue to support transactions from its Myanmar desks in Singapore and Hong Kong,” the firm stated.
Berwin Leighton first moved into the Myanmar market in March 2014 via a tie-up with local outfit Legal Network Consultants, which became a member of the firm’s Asia network. Prior to that, Berwin Leighton served clients in the region from its Singapore office.
In November 2015, the firm announced plans to open its first office in the country with the hire of Hughes, a move the firm said would allow it “to capitalize on the improving investment climate in the region”.
In 2013, Duane Morris became the first U.S.-based law firm to open an office in Myanmar—operating through a joint venture with Singapore-based Selvam. Other major law firms with a presence in Myanmar include Allen & Overy and Baker McKenzie, both of which launched in the country in 2014. Stephenson Harwood opened a local base in 2017 after ending its alliance with local firm U Tin Yu & Associates, while Dentons also launched in Yangon, Myanmar, last year with the hire of a seven-strong local team.
International law firm interest in Myanmar has grown since the country began far-reaching political reforms in 2011, including a foreign investment law allowing foreigners to own 100 percent of their business.
Berwin Leighton is closing in on a decision regarding its proposed trans-Atlantic merger with Bryan Cave, with the result of a partner vote expected next week.