Free market playbook won’t gain access to BRIC markets
Have international law firms really adjusted to a world in which national Bar restrictions will be a severe impediment to their ambitions rather than just a minor irritant? After all, the substantial internationalisation of the UK legal profession since the late 1990s was closely linked to assumptions about the development and integration of a single market within the European Union. In essence, the huge strategic bet that City law firms took was based upon the prediction that Europe would develop into a genuinely unified trading block. This was symbolised more than anything by the aggressive push into Germany between 1999 and 2002, which saw foreign law firms come to dominate the top end of the commercial market. A similar pattern was repeated in other Western economies, if not quite so dramatically. Now that push seems quaintly of a different age - indeed, City firms, having won their prize, have been quietly retrenching and pruning their European practices for five years while EU integration has yet to live up to the hype. But the question remains whether this experience has really geared up City law firms to address a world in which the international jurisdictions they increasingly covet are blocked by Bar rules often applied with protectionist intent.
Euro experience still shapes City thinking but it won’t deliver in emerging economies