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San Francisco firm Morrison & Foerster (MoFo) is pulling out of Buenos Aires and setting up an alliance with a local firm instead.
The firm, which opened the office at the beginning of 1999 to service clients moving into the region, will send the US lawyers at the office to other international offices.
In place of its own practice it is setting up a strategic alliance with local firm Alvarez Prado Cabanellas & Kelly. MoFo's Argentinian lawyers will join that firm.
The decision to pull out follows a similar move by the office's biggest client Azurix, which was involved in water privatisation and projects in the region until the end of 2000.
MoFo hoped to sustain the practice with dotcom work, one of its biggest practice areas in the US, but that market has since dipped.
Chairman of the firm Keith Wetmore says: "We've had an office there for some time - this is a shift of direction. We had a lot of activity in water privatisation first, and then came the dotcoms. We continue to have a lot of clients interested in the region and we're remaining active there because it's important for us, particularly in telecoms."
He says the strategic alliance is not being done with a view to a merger, although he does not rule it out. Wetmore says: "The need for US lawyers for our clients has declined and a higher percentage of local lawyers is being provided. It was more cost-effective for us to provide that with local firms."
Alvarez Prado is a 22-lawyer firm which shares its focus with MoFo on technology, intellectual property, telecommunications and related finance and regulation.
Name partner Guillermo Cabanellas says: "We've worked closely with lawyers from MoFo for some time and have the greatest respect for them. We think the new relationship will be of great benefit to clients of both firms, and for both our firms."