Ukrainian law firm Magisters is to launch its first office in Belarus, merging with local law firm BelJurBureau.
The deal will take the newly-combined firm past the 130-lawyer mark and is expected to be completed by the end of January 2009.
In total, 12 lawyers will join Magisters, led by partners Anna Rusetskaya and Denis Turovets in the Belarus office.
Turovets will become managing ;partner ;of Magisters’ Belarus office. He said the country’s underdeveloped legal market makes it ripe for new entrants to take advantage of an increase in work.
BelJurBureau’s lawyers work in practice areas such as dispute resolution, real estate, intellectual property and corporate.
“The Belarus market is one of the most attractive and financially stable in the region,” said Turovets. “The government’s recent privatisation plans make it a lucrative emerging market for early entrants, as compared with more mature markets in the region such as Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.”
Magisters is familiar with the merger process and has aggressive expansion plans. In 2006 the firm merged with Pravis Reznikov Vlasenko and Partners in Ukraine and Legas Legal Solutions in Russia.
Oleg Riabokon, managing partner of Magisters, said: “We intend to replicate in Belarus the success of our mergers in 2006.”
This year has been one of the firm’s most active. Magisters opened a three-lawyer office in Georgia at the start of the year and hired its first chief operating officer, Jason Bruzdzinski, from US-funded research centre Mitre Corporation.
Magisters also hired two new partners for the Moscow office from Rosneft and Russin & Vecchi and brought in UniCredit board member Sergey Karaganov as senior adviser.
The legal markets of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) have witnessed a flurry of activity at the end of 2008. Austrian law firm Schönherr has launched three new offices in the region, opening bases in the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia.
Schönherr will take over the Prague and Warsaw offices of Herbert Smith’s German ally Gleiss Lutz in the new year, while simultaneously launching its own office in Bratislava.
Gleiss Lutz opened its Prague and Warsaw offices in 1992 and 1998 respectively. Four of its partners partners, two from each office, will join Schönherr as part of the transfer deal.
In ;Prague ;partners Martin Nedelka and Martin Kubánek will move over to the Austrian firm, while in Warsaw partners Pawel Siekierzynski and Przemyslaw Pietrzak will join Schönherr together with counsel Torsten Bogen.
Rainer Loges, managing partner of Gleiss Lutz, said: “To be successful as a law firm, you regularly have to review your strategy. We opened our offices in Prague and Warsaw initially to help our clients enter these markets. Today, our clients’ demands have changed and we believe they’ll be better served by aligning our Eastern European offices with a firm whose strategic focus is on CEE.”
Earlier this year, Linklaters decided to scrap its offices in Bratislava, Bucharest, Budapest ;and ;Prague, creating ;spin-off ;firm Kinstellar, led by Linklaters’ former CEE head Jason Mogg. In September, Bird & Bird made its first foray into the region, simultaneously launching a series of offices in Bratislava, Budapest, Prague and Warsaw.