Clifford Chance has formally launched its Istanbul office and is setting its stall out for M&A work. The move comes four months after first announcing the development.
The firm will operate alongside affiliated firm Yegin Legal Consultancy (YLC). Clifford Chance partner Simon Williams is heading the new office, working closely with YLC founder Mete Yegin and his team of 10 lawyers.
Yegin was previously head of banking and finance at Turkish firm Pekin & Pekin before joining Clifford Chance as a consultant in 2009.
The affiliate relationship is required under local bar rules. Frankfurt-based partner Riko Vanezis, who is part of Clifford Chance’s Turkish group, explained that the magic circle firm worked closely with YLC to formulate a plan for the future development of the office, a salary structure and other details.
“In all but name it’s a Clifford Chance office,” Vanezis said.
According to Vanezis, Clifford Chance first investigated the possibility of opening in Istanbul three or four years ago. Clients were enthusiastic about the prospect, but the move was held up by the financial crisis.
He said the firm plans to grow the number of lawyers in Istanbul over the next few years as workflow develops.
“Clifford Chance has been doing business in Turkey for quite a while,” Vanezis explained. He added that most of the work the firm has carried out to date has been finance-based, particularly related to projects such as the Gebze-Orhangazi-Izmir Motorway, the Istanbul Strait Road Tunnel Crossing, the ports in Mersin and Bandirma and the Boyabat Dam and Hydroelectric Power Plant project.
However, the firm also saw increased opportunities in corporate transactions. For the time being, though, Clifford Chance has decided against moving into dispute resolution.
“Litigation’s quite lucrative and some of the other Turkish law firms were happy to hear that we weren’t offering that,” commented Vanezis.
He said the firm was hoping to maintain strong referral relationships with local practices for the work it was unable to do.
“They don’t yet regard us as outright competition as we’ll never be in a position to do everything out of one office,” said Vanezis. “At the moment we’re in a honeymoon period where we’re getting business on our own and still being instructed by Turkish law firms.”
Turkey is to hold parliamentary elections in June this year. The country’s GDP is growing strongly and a round of privatisations is expected following the election. Vanezis said he expects Clifford Chance to receive more instructions on these sorts of deal as a result of being present on the ground.
The firm is the fourth major international firm to open in Turkey, joining Gide Loyrette Nouel, Salans and White & Case. Vanezis believes more international outfits will seek to establish themselves in the country in the future.
“I think there’s an interest, but you need to be brave to commit to actually going through the process of meeting the bar regulations and opening an office,” he said. “One thing the Turks won’t forgive, I think, is sitting there for two or three years and then moving out.”