Stephenson Harwood pioneers Myanmar expansion with association

Stephenson Harwood has become the first UK law firm to enter the Myanmar market after striking an association deal with local firm U Tin Yu & Associates.

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The tie-up is one of a small number of alliances between an international firm and a local firm in the jurisdiction and comes amid the opening up of the market for outside investors with the signing of the Foreign Investment Law last November.

The news also follows Stephenson Harwood’s recent office launch in Beijing and exclusive association with Singapore firm Virtus Law as part of a major Asia push (1 May 2013).

The association with Myanmar’s U Tin Yu, whose two partners are managing partner U Tin Yu and litigation advocate U Ko Ko Gyi, was announced internally at Stephenson Harwood yesterday (8 May) after being signed in recent weeks. It did not require a licence and could lead to a merger at a later stage.

It is exclusive unless a client wishes to use another firm and will cover U Tin Yu’s areas of specialism including corporate and commercial, litigation, real estate, IP and employment.

The relationship will be managed by Stephenson Harwood Singapore corporate partner Peter Church, who had previously worked with the firm and spearheaded the deal. Others closely involved in the association will be Singapore corporate partner Matthew Gorman and Pedram Norton, a Singapore-based corporate finance associate who will spend significant amounts of time in Myanmar.

It follows entries into the market by US firm Baker & McKenzie, which has a Myanmar centre in Bangkok, and Singapore firm Rajah & Tann by adding Myanmar firm NK Legal to its network (1 February 2013), while Malaysia-based Zaid Ibrahim & Co has also added Myanmar to its reach through its network ZICOlaw (21 January 2013).

Stephenson Harwood CEO Sharon White said in a statement: “We are seeing an increased interest in Myanmar from our clients and I am glad that we are now able to offer local knowledge and expertise from within the country.”

U Tin Yu, who founded the Myanmar firm, added: “As Myanmar opens its doors to the outside world we will require assistance in offering tailored legal advice to foreign companies who will have little or no experience in the country.”