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How about this for a first – a UK law firm based in another country. Asserson Law Offices services clients in the UK but is based more than 2,000 miles away in Jerusalem.
The brainchild of Bird & Bird’s former head of litigation Trevor Asserson, the firm set up its base after Asserson moved to Israel’s capital with his family and realised he was not alone in wanting to do so.
“I wanted to live in Israel. I’m Jewish and it’s a good country to live in,” he says. “There are a large number of Jews in the world who would like to live here and I realised I’d be able to attract good lawyers who are Jewish and pay them at 25 per cent of the going rate in London.”
Asserson looked at the two fundamental costs of running a law firm, lawyers and rent, and realised that significantly lower outgoings would mean lower bills for clients.
“We’re not competing with high street firms in Newcastle,” Asserson explains. “We’re taking work from Olswang, Bird & Bird, SJ Berwin, Stephenson Harwood, Clyde & Co, and offering high-quality lawyers at less than half the price. The only way we can do that is to outsource to another country.”
Asserson admits that it is hard to imagine this strategy working in any other country and that initially it was not an easy sell. But sell it he has, and the firm now has a list of clients from both Western and Eastern Europe, Germany, France, Switzerland and, of course, the UK and Israel.
The firm has doubled its turnover every year since its launch in 2005 and Asserson expects to be employing 12 lawyers by the end of 2009, the more senior of whom will be expected to visit London clients when necessary (Asserson himself spends around four days in London every month).
“Most of my new clients are over the moon once they’re given an explanation of the firm,” he says. “If they’re doing litigation then they’re basically signing an open cheque, but we’ve been several million dollars cheaper than the opposing firm in some cases.”
Firm: Asserson Law Offices Managing partner: Trevor Asserson Turnover: £2.8m Number of partners: One Number of equity partners: One Number of lawyers: Nine Number of fee-earners: 10 Number of offices: One Location: Jerusalem Practice areas: Dispute resolution, international arbitration, corporate and commercial, real estate, employment, private client Clients: First International Bank of Israel, Greenwich Financial Services, IDT, Mizrachi Bank, The Porter Foundation, Professor Gannit Ankori, Soda Club, Tel Aviv University