Cyprus’s largest firm, Andreas Neocleous & Co, is setting out its stall to become a more international outfit by unveiling plans to open in Beijing.
The firm has submitted an application to establish a representative office in the Chinese capital and is also looking for a Chinese alliance firm, corporate head Elias Neocleous confirmed to The Lawyer.
Neocleous said the strategy was part of a wider plan to expand the firm’s international presence.
Currently, Andreas Neocleous has offices in Brussels, Budapest, Moscow, Prague and Ukraine (Kiev and Sebastopol). The network is by far the largest international presence of any Cypriot firm.
Opening in Beijing would be aimed at taking advantage of an increasing flow of work coming from Chinese companies through Cyprus. The island has long been an attractive jurisdiction for businesses wishing to set up holding companies for investment purposes, most notably Russian corporates and individuals.
According to Neocleous, Moscow has to date been the firm’s most successful international office. He said the firm had begun to win beauty parades to act for clients in the banking sector in particular and although it was not trying to compete with established foreign firms in Moscow, the office was generating a “decent amount of work”.
The success in Russia has come despite Andreas Neocleous regularly losing associates to larger firms, said Neocleous.
Elsewhere in Europe he said the firm had decided to become more aggressive, particularly in Ukraine.
“We have a three-year plan to be one of the top 10 firms in the next three years,” Neocleous said of the Kiev office. “We think we have the right people to do that.”
He said Ukraine offered these opportunities because it was a less competitive market than Russia. In Eastern Europe the firm was focusing on Prague, Neocleous said. He said the Czech office was “stable” but remained a small business and the firm was considering ways to strengthen its presence there.
In addition to expanding its international offices Andreas Neocleous has also changed its internal structure. Neocleous said the firm converted to a Swiss Verein, the model used by much larger international outfits including Baker & McKenzie and DLA Piper, last year.
He said the Verein structure had helped the firm integrate its various offices at all levels, and also made the culture more corporate.
“We’re trying to run our practice as a business. We think this is the correct way to do it,” Neocleous said.
He added that the firm’s management board now consists of three lawyers and four non-lawyers - including IT and HR heads - which was also part of this strategy. Overall, it is aimed at ensuring the firm’s succession beyond its founding family.
The strategy sets Andreas Neocleous apart from rivals in Cyprus, where firms are still predominantly family-owned and run.
Andreas Neocleous produced turnover of e27m (£23.5m) in 2010, according to data provided for The Lawyer European 100 2011.