Duane Morris Opens Office in Myanmar
The office will launch with 10 local senior and junior practitioners, "including multiple former judicial officers, practicing in a range of commercial and regulatory areas," the press release said.
Duane Morris entered Singapore in 2010 with the formation of its joint law venture with Selvam LLC, creating Duane Morris & Selvam.
Asked if there was any concern about opening an office in a country that had, until recently, been so isolated, Soroko said there wasn't.
"Myanmar wants to open itself up to economic and investment activity," he said. "We talked extensively with the Myanmar attorney general before [making this move] and it was done very much at his invitation. We're very comfortable there."
Asked whether Duane Morris relished its role of going against conventional Am Law 100 strategy in Asia — namely using China as a base of operations — Soroko said there was value, beyond strategy, in going against the norm. He said the firm's backdoor strategy "sure has worked for us," but added that "I'll never say we won't be in China someday."
"I don't know if we relish that role, but [if you talk to outside legal consultants] they will tell you the biggest failure of most firms is the failure to differentiate," Soroko said. "The practice we have in Asia is a nice differentiator," because it offers clients something other firms don't have.
If you're in all the same places where all the other firms are, Soroko asked, what are you offering the client that's different?
Asked to put a dollar figure on the new office, Soroko said he wasn't prepared to do that.
"But it's off to a solid start," he said.
Since the 2010 election of Myanmar's first quasi-civilian government, several measures have been enacted to help bring the country out of isolation. In November 2012, President U Thein Sein signed a new Foreign Investment Law, allowing overseas firms to fully own ventures, offering tax breaks and defining longer-than-typical land lease periods. According to Duane Morris' press release, Myanmar's economy grew approximately 6.5 percent in fiscal year 2012-13, and growth is expected to accelerate, according to an International Monetary Fund survey. Myanmar received a total of $810 million in foreign investment from 11 countries in the first quarter of 2013, the firm said in its press release.