Cesar and Fidel

So it’s farewell Fidel and hello New Cuba. Or, at least, it will be when the world’s longest-serving head of state really does call it a day by checking out permanently.

Until then, the world (and the world’s lawyers) can only speculate about the untold riches on offer once Cuba opens up.

And first up is Greenberg Traurig chief executive, Cesar Alvarez. As we report today (Friday 22 February), Greenberg has just posted a solid set of results for a year that saw the US firm continue its rapid expansion across the globe.

Is Cuba next?

Cesar (was there ever a better name for a law firm boss?) told me yesterday (Thursday 21 February) that his firm was already excited by the possibility of change, but we might all have to wait a while.

“If Cuba ever opens up, we will certainly look to be there,” Cesar says.

But that’s still a big ‘if’. According to Cesar, it’s going to be a little while before Havana’s doors are flung open to welcome marauding lawyers. And he should know; he was born there.

His take is that in 1959, Cuba was one of the leading Latin American countries. “Fifty years later, it’s not even a fourth-world country,” Alvarez says. “You’ve got to try hard to do that. If it had been managed by nobody at all, it would’ve been better.”

Still, that only underlines the opportunities that are waiting there for when the time is right. It’s just that, according to Cesar, that time is not now.

“What happened this week is certainly a major development because it’s a change, and anytime there’s a change you hope it’s going to be better than before,” Alvarez argues.

“Castro was always very rigid and resistant to any change whatsoever. His brother is much more of a pragmatist whereas Fidel is very doctrinaire. But people have been frustrated for 50 years and had plans for 50 years. I’ll wait until I see some real change. So far, I haven’t seen anything.”

The world will just have to continue waiting to see Havana in a post-Fidel world.

SullCrom and the Brit accord

Over in London, Sullivan & Cromwell‘s new local co-head Vanessa Blackmore, will be delighted to learn her appointment has got the thumbs up from the New York market.

The consensus in Sullivan’s home town is that the promotion of a Brit for the first time ever to head, jointly, what is now the firm’s second-largest office is a significant step.

Typical is this comment from Gwen Feder, a New York principal at legal search consultant Petersan: “The reality is that firms need to recognise and reward producers, and that it makes sense for a firm with offices in different countries to build natives of those countries into the power structure, if the firm is serious about building a global enterprise.”

Sullivan has been in London since 1972. Slowly and steadily it has evolved ever since. Blackmore’s promotion means it’s now reached a new stage.

Of course, not every US firm in London has English law capability on board, so promoting a Brit is not an option.

But in the context of the ever-developing global legal market, any international firm in the City that does boast English law expertise but doesn’t have a UK partner in a senior position might want to take note.

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