CLIFFORD Chance is to open an office in Prague next month, bolstering its presence in Central Europe.
Resident partner Andrew Matthews will head the office, which will be fully operational from 3 April. Matthews joined the firm on 1 February from McKenna & Co. While at McKennas, he helped establish a Prague and Moscow office for the firm.
The office will be staffed by Clifford Chance solicitor Mark Norris and three Czech advocates led by Dr Vladimir Petrus, who has worked with the firm since 1993 on projects including a pioneering Eurobond issue by the Czech energy monopoly CEZ last year.
Czech law prevents advocates from being formally employed by one firm. But according to Matthews: "Vladimir and two other advocates will be fully integrated members of the office. Our intention is that, to the extent the parameters allow, they will work for Clifford Chance and for Clifford Chance clients."
The decision to open a Prague office reflects the strength of the Czech economy and the strong growth in corporate, banking and securities work conducted there by Clifford Chance, says Matthews. But he admits he faces strong competition from firms with offices already established in the country.
"Apart from some US firms, there are probably a dozen international law firms out there, of which six or seven are British and four drawn from the top ten," he says. "It is very competitive."
Keith Clark, senior partner at Clifford Chance, says: "We are going to hit the ground running in Prague, by virtue of the strong record Clifford Chance and Petrus already have in the country."
* Allen & Overy solicitor Jan Grozdanovic has passed the Czech Republic's professional legal exams to become one of the first English solicitors to be admitted to practice Czech law.