Camerons, DLA square up to Bulgarian court

Law Society joins UK firms’ fight against fines based on protectionism

CMS Cameron McKenna and DLA Piper have vowed to fight the protectionist stance taken by local ­Bulgarian law firms after becoming embroiled in a turf war over practising in the country.

Camerons and DLA Piper were among a group of four international firms fined by Bulgaria’s Competition Protection Committee (CPC) after local firms complained that international players had an unfair advantage over them.

Although an appeal to the Bulgarian Supreme Administrative Court resulted in Austrian firms Cerha Hem-pel Spiegelfeld Hlawati and CMS Reich-Rohrwig Hainz having their fines rescinded, Camerons’ and DLA Piper’s fines were upheld.

Camerons managing partner Duncan Weston said the firm was appealing the court’s decision, adding that Camerons will not be ­dissuaded from operating
in Bulgaria.

He said: “As the leading international firm operating there, we remain as committed as ever to Bulgaria. Our clients expect nothing less.

“It’s a shame that the local firms saw fit to take the stance they did. But we act at our clients’ behest and our clients want us to be in the market.”

Weston’s views are shared by Anna Rizova-Clegg, ­managing partner at DLA Piper’s Bulgarian arm, Rizova & Partners Law Firm.

She said: “We see the actions undertaken against the international law firms in Bulgaria as an attempt by the local firms to protect their market share once understanding that they’re facing serious competition.”

DLA Piper is also appealing the court’s decision, but it is understood that the CPC is considering appealing the decision to rescind the ­Austrian firms’ fines.

The Law Society is ­liaising with the European Commission and working with the British Embassy in Bulgaria to lobby the ­Bulgarian Supreme Bar Council on behalf of Camerons and DLA Piper.

Law Society president Paul Marsh said: “The Law Society supports the rights of international law firms and lawyers to practise in Bulgaria in accordance with European law.”