Camerons snaps up Faegre & Benson's Almaty team

US firm Faegre & Benson has shut down its Almaty office, transferring its Kazakh team, including London resident partner Thomas Johnson, to Cameron McKenna.

James Stephenson, a partner at the firm's Minneapolis head office, said that although the office had been successful, it did not fit in with the firm's broader international strategy.

“Because we had not planned to branch out in that area of the world, we didn't have the support of the offices needed in the region,” said Stephenson.

The Almaty office, which was established five years ago, was the firm's only office in central and eastern Europe.

The decision was made last year to look for a new home for the four lawyers involved in the Kazakh practice Johnson, the US lawyer driving the practice who split his time between London and Almaty, and three local lawyers based in Almaty.

The deal with Cameron McKenna represents a significant boost for the UK firm which set up in Almaty four years ago.

The addition of four new lawyers doubles the number of lawyers it has on the ground in Kazakhstan.

Johnson, meanwhile, is being transferred to Almaty on a permanent basis and will act as office head.

Lawrence Leporte, the Cameron McKenna partner in charge of the Almaty operation, said: “We are in Kazakhstan for the long haul and must operate as a solid law firm that gives first-class legal advice.”

But Kazakhstan has been a difficult market for some foreign law firms. Faegre & Benson's move follows the recent decision by another regional US firm, Pepper Hamilton & Scheetz, to shut its office. US firm Squire Sanders & Dempsey and Clifford Chance have also pulled out of the country.

Leporte shrugs off the difficulties: “By being reliable, we attract quite a lot of work.”