'...We are very attuned to the opportunities in the [Middle East] region, and I am certain that our practice throughout the area will always be a significant factor in our international profile.'
-- Jamie Baker
Jamie Baker is Chair of the firmwide Global Projects Department of Baker Botts, and serves on the firm’s executive committee. Additionally, Baker serves as the firm’s international partner, responsible for the development and coordination of the firm’s international practice through its various offices.
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Market Expansion Reflects Strategic Objectives
Editor's Note: This is one in a series of Q&As with Baker Botts partners on significantly enhancing Baker Botts’ Middle East practice by combining its existing practice with the acquisition of one of the most significant practices in the Middle East.
As International Partner in Charge, what is the firm’s strategy when considering expansion in an existing market?
JB: When we enter a market, we typically put into place the building blocks that start us on the road to achieving our broader objectives, and on which we build over time. This is because it is rarely the case that a firm can satisfy its strategic imperatives all at once upon its initial arrival into a new market. Accordingly, in expanding our presence in an existing market, our goal is to enhance our capabilities, taking into account what we have learned and our clients developing needs. Beyond that, we ordinarily are inclined to play to strength, but remain open to opportunities that make good business sense. This acquisition satisfies all of the criteria. It makes us stronger in traditional areas of energy and transactional work, and adds several elements important to the business community, including dispute resolution and local law.
Which markets is the firm currently not in that look attractive to you from a growth standpoint?
JB: I think we are pretty content with our existing international footprint. We expect to announce the formal opening of an office in Rio de Janeiro , Brazil later this month. This will be our first in Latin America since we shuttered our office in Mexico City in the early 1970's after the government there expelled all foreign law firms. We like the outlook for Mexico today, and so that is something we are keeping our eye on. Beyond that, our primary international objective is to cultivate our existing international network, particularly in London, Brussels and the Far East. For instance, we are developing plans to enhance our Brussels office -- which is preparing to mark its first anniversary of operations -- to take advantage of the synergies from having acquired the core of the antitrust practice from the former Howrey firm in 2011.
But as I noted previously, we remain opportunistic, particularly as may relate to Southeast Asia or continental Europe. And we also are attuned to building out our profile in the U.S. on both coasts. While it is obviously not within the international remit, we continue to believe we can grow our presence in New York and California with substantial positive effects.
How has the firm broadened its capabilities beyond the energy sector in international markets?
JB: We have developed a significant disputes capability, mostly in international arbitration, in several of our larger foreign offices; London, Moscow and now in Dubai. Our office in Brussels is primarily targeted at our competition law and international trade capabilities. In London and Moscow, our technology and intellectual property practices continue to expand with firm lawyers handling litigious and non-litigious matters for IP clients, and for other clients on multinational cases and transactions.
Those are just a few examples of how we are taking our practice beyond energy. But we are also growing our corporate and finance practices across our network, as evidenced by the most recent addition of a group of lawyers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. That group serves a range of industries beyond their energy clients, including construction, consumer products and aviation and defense.
Do you see the Middle East operations as a key driver for firm growth moving forward? Why?
JB: A heightened profile in the Middle East is a natural for Baker Botts. Our global energy brand is so strong that the region offers us a real competitive advantage. It is the only place in the world -- outside of Texas -- where we have three offices. So, we think the region is important and, with our added capabilities and deeper bench, we expect to see significant growth. In addition to the large group that has joined us in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, earlier this year we commenced a formal alliance with the International Legal Group in Kuwait, where we have a number of substantial representations of large state-owned companies. We are very attuned to the opportunities in the region, and I am certain that our practice throughout the area will always be a significant factor in our international profile.
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