According to consultant Rober Bata, many US players grew their existing operations throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa last year. These firms have been aggressively growing their cross-border footprint. Simpson Thacher, Kirkland & Ellis, Fried Frank, Hogan Lovells, Boies Schiller Flexner, Orrick, McDermott Will & Emery, Kobre & Kim and Quinn Emanuel among others have entered, variously, Brussels, Dublin, Milan, Singapore, Dubai and Riyadh. This trend will continue and, with Covid-19 receding, probably accelerate.
Although the war in Ukraine, inflation, and greater regulatory scrutiny may slow the private equity juggernaut in Europe, US firms will continue to bulk up in London and grow their offices in Germany, France, and Spain for transactional, antitrust and regulatory work, as well as investigations and disputes.
Luxembourg still looks good for tax and funds, the Nordics for environmental and ESG, and Italy for private wealth, disputes and labor and employment. The Netherlands is becoming a favored class action locale, and this will draw US plaintiff/claimant firms, as well as defense practices.
Firms affected by the war will seek to rebalance and reposition the loss of their Russia and Ukraine practices elsewhere, and Rober Bata expects renewed interest in Warsaw, Bucharest, and Vienna.
China has lost its luster insofar as new entrants are concerned, but firms already well-positioned there will be taking on more local staff. Hong Kong remains a finance, fintech, cyber, private equity and disputes destination, although global firms there are beginning to pivot more toward mainland China business (and increasingly hiring locally).
US firms will continue to find Singapore attractive, including as a Hong Kong alternative, given the city state’s strengths in disputes, investment funds, asset management, energy and private wealth, its draw as a business-friendly headquarters location for global clients, and its position as a gateway to other Southeast Asian countries.
Middle East, Africa and Latin America
The Middle East presents growth opportunity for construction, energy, disputes, life sciences and technology practices; with Dubai, Saudi Arabia, and Israel likely new entry points for American firms.
US firms have yet to make meaningful incursions into Africa, where UK, French and Portuguese firms have acted with greater alacrity; but Rober Bata expects more interest in South Africa and in potential bright stars like Ghana, for projects, energy, infrastructure, and TMT.
Finally, in Latin America, US firms will largely continue to work on a fly-in-fly-out basis, rather than open new offices, except for Mexico. The bloom is off the rose for formerly well-regarded, business-friendly locations like Colombia, Chile, and Peru.