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Duane Morris Forms Alliance To Enter Sri Lankan Market.

11 September, 2014

 

Duane Morris appears to be the first U.S. law firm to enter the Sri Lankan legal market in some capacity. The firm said Tuesday that it had formed an alliance with Colombo, Sri Lanka-based law firm Gowers International Legal Consultants & Corporate Lawyers through Duane Morris’ Singapore-based joint venture Duane Morris & Selvam. The alliance with Gowers formalizes Duane Morris & Selvam’s existing networking relationship with the firm in which they collaborated on matters across Asia.

 

 

Sri Lanka liberalized its economy in the 1970s but experienced 26 years of civil unrest, corruption and a civil war that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths among the 21 million-person population. The civil war ended in 2009 and, according to Duane Morris and others, the country has since experienced strong economic growth with government-led investment into reconstruction and development projects and increased industrial, agricultural and service sector productivity.

 

“With such impressive growth in Sri Lanka during the past five years, we have felt significant demand for dedicated and experienced counsel in Colombo. In partnering with Gowers International, we are pleased to immediately offer the legal resources to invest and thrive there,” said Krishna Ramachandra, managing director of Duane Morris & Selvam and a Sri Lankan native who has lived in Singapore since the 1970s. “Likewise, our team in Singapore and across Asia is well-situated to advise Sri Lankan businesses in a wide range of complex matters.”

 

Kuvera de Zoysa, managing partner of Gowers, said in a statement that the partnership allows his firm to offer cross-border practice strengths in areas central to Sri Lanka’s economic development, such as project finance, mergers and acquisitions, international banking, international commercial arbitration and maritime law.

 

Duane Morris Chairman John Soroko called Sri Lanka a “promising market,” saying in a statement that the alliance will give the firm’s clients access to lawyers on the ground in the country. Soroko said in an interview Tuesday that Duane Morris didn’t even explore how and whether a U.S. firm could open its own office in Sri Lanka because its interests were always simply to expand its networking relationship into a more formal alliance, “It’s certainly not a joint practice of law, but it’s a coordination of our efforts and resources,” Soroko said. “We are going to partner with them, not necessarily in the strict legal sense, but in the practical sense. The firms will remain independent.”

 

Soroko said the alliance will have a marketing element, a bit of a co-branding element and the firms will work together on a certain set of mutual clients. He said each firm will be paid its own fees.

 

The previous networking arrangement was borne out of shared clients between de Zoysa and Singapore-based Ramachandra, Soroko said. “Sri Lanka is a very active market for investment flowing in from Singapore and there’s a lot of trade investment and development activity flowing in both directions, and our Singapore office had had a good stable of clients from Sri Lanka,” Soroko said, noting his firm worked with Gowers on many of those matters.

 

Soroko said the formal alliance officially began in mid-August. He said there are no plans at this point for the firm to open its own office in Sri Lanka.

 

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