Piraeus Bar Association forces UK firms into joining the fold

Three more UK law firms are applying for registration with the Piraeus Bar Association, following the threat of legal action from the Greek authorities over their “illegal” practices.

Foreign law firms that are operating under OE and EPE structures (the equivalent oflimited and unlimited partnerships) were declared to be operating illegally by both the Piraeus and Greek bar associations (The Lawyer, 21 August).

Now Clyde & Co and Holman Fenwick & Willan have followed Norton Rose into the registration process to adopt a chambers-style set-up before signing up as a fully-fledged partner of their London offices. It is believed that Watson Farley & Williams has also started negotiations to register.

At the same time, Greek senior partner John Krzywkowski at Holman Fenwick & Willan has resigned and been replaced by Charles Lowe. Krzywkowski is believed to be joining Watson Farley on 1 October.

A Piraeus Bar Association spokesperson says: “English law firms have contended that they have adopted the cover of merchant companies on advice received by Greek lawyers. However, the Piraeus Bar Association has pointed out to them through the Law Society that such practice was illegal, and invited them to dissolve the merchant companies and to render legal services under the provision of European law.”

Holman Fenwick partner Marcus Bowman says: “We are in the process of registering our lawyers, although we have not lodged the application because we are trying to ensure that we are complying with all the requirements.”

He adds that he would be surprised if any English firm chose not to follow his firm’s example.

The position of Watson Farley’s Piraeus office remains unclear. Spokeswoman Joan Radley would only say: “There are ongoing discussions under the auspices of the English Law Society with the Piraeus Bar.”

Law Society international spokesman Christian Wisskirchen says: “We have advised individual lawyers practising in English firms to register under the procedures introduced by Greece pursuant to the establishment directive, and to be regulated by the host bar.”