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Allen & Overy (A&O) managing partner David Morley and Eversheds managing partner Lee Ranson have become the latest in a line of UK lawyers to join government trade delegations overseas, joining a mission to Russia last week.
Morley and Ranson were part of a group that joined Prime Minister David Cameron and minister for trade and investment Lord Stephen Green on the trip. The delegation comprised representatives from companies such as British Airways, Ernst & Young, Kingfisher Group and the London Stock Exchange as well as Lord Sebastian Coe, chair of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The mission saw the signing of several deals and memoranda of understanding between Russian and UK businesses, including an agreement that will see financial and professional services association TheCity UK help Moscow in its aim to become an international financial centre.
Morley and Ransom were enthusiastic about the mission and the role that lawyers can play in this type of delegation.
“The legal sector accounts for almost 2 per cent of the UK’s GDP, and exports more than £3bn of business annually, according to government figures,” Morley pointed out. “Some 60 per cent of our own revenues come from outside the UK, and as a global firm we play a significant part in facilitating international trade through the deals on which we advise. The legal sector has a valuable contribution to make to discussions on capital flows around the world.”
Ranson was also positive.
“The international attraction of London in terms of corporate listings and as a centre for the resolution of international disputes is a huge plus, and one that lawyers can help to sell,” he said.
Lawyers who have been on previous trade missions include former Clifford Chance senior partner Stuart Popham, who travelled to India in August 2010. In a blog for TheLawyer.com Popham outlined the hectic schedule of the visit, which involved meetings with Indian government ministers and business leaders.
“We attended meetings at the Bombay Stock Exchange (ringing the bell to start trading) with business leaders including our own ’best friend’ Zia Mody of AZB & Partners,” wrote Popham. “We discussed cooperation, deals to be done.
“Collectively, the day gave a real insight into the inner workings of the Indian economy and underlined that this really was a working visit rather than a backdrop for political photo opportunities.”
The members of trade delegations are selected by UK Trade & Investment, with input from groups such as the Confederation of British Industry, and usually comprise businesses with existing interests in a country or which are set to do deals there.
While A&O has had a Moscow office for more than two decades Eversheds does not, although the firm is looking seriously at the market.
Trade missions generally go to countries where the presence of the Prime Minister can boost the UK’s profile. The developing Bric countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China - are a particular target for the Government, with a delegation set to visit Brazil before the end of 2011.