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October 29, 2013

Herzfeld Rubin 1st Nonaffiliated US Law Firm in Myanmar

By Andrew Strickler
Law360, New York (October 29, 2013, 4:27 PM ET) -- New York-based Herzfeld & Rubin PC has become the first U.S. law firm to independently open an integrated office in the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar, with an eye on leveraging its experience in other frontier markets, the firm said Tuesday.

The new office, dubbed Herzfeld Rubin Meyer & Rose Law Firm Ltd., is located in the country's biggest city, Yangon, and is run completely through the U.S. entity as opposed to a foreign affiliate. The firm also plans to open a satellite office in the capital city of Naypyidaw in the first quarter of 2014, firm principal Eric C. Rose said.

The office, already staffed by both American and Myanmar attorneys, represents the first U.S. investor in the professional services industry in Myanmar to hold a full ownership interest under the Myanmar Investment Law, legislation passed last year that has begun the process of opening the country's long-restricted markets, according to the firm.

Herzfeld & Rubin was granted a waiver on a rule restricting full foreign ownership interests and received a license in July to open the office.

The firm's experience working in Romania and other Eastern European counties since the 1990s, and Rose's own work as in-house counsel for companies investing in frontier markets, made Myanmar an attractive opportunity despite a lack of infrastructure and despite still-emerging legal controls after decades of military rule, Rose told Law360.

"We've been looking for a real opportunity to use our competitive advantage, and when we saw two years ago things were starting to change, we started coming here, and held hands with the [U.S.] State Department, and advised them," he said. "We know from experience that it pays to be first in."

The office will offer a range of legal and business development services, with an initial focus on inbound investments from China, Thailand, Singapore and elsewhere in Asia. Working with New York-, Europe- and Israel-based lawyers, the firm is also targeting companies interested in exporting to the U.S., with textiles being a significant area of interest.

"This is a country with a pedigree of producing very good garments in the past, and it has the advantage of the workforce and the know-how," Rose said.

U Kyaw Hoe, a prominent civil and criminal litigator in Myanmar and a member of the Central Committee of opposition party National League for Democracy, will lead the litigation practice. The office will initially include five attorneys and a nonattorney manager.

In September, Duane Morris LLP became the first U.S.-based firm to expand into Myanmar, doing so through a Singapore-based joint venture.

The moves were made possible by the recent lifting or expiration of sanctions from the international community and by a series of reforms that began with elections and the official dissolution in 2011 of a military dictatorship that has ruled the country since the 1960s.

“The result of sweeping political and economic reform has ignited interest in Myanmar by American and other global investors — including our clients," said Herzfeld & Rubin’s managing director, Ian Ceresney, in a statement. "Their renewed focus in the region, and Southeast Asia generally, is the impetus behind our decision to establish a presence there.”

Herzfeld & Rubin is headquartered in New York and has more than 200 attorneys in seven offices in the U.S., Europe, Israel and Myanmar.

--Editing by Edrienne Su.

99B Myay Nu Street, LAMAI Condo, Suite 6D, Sanchaung Twp., Yangon 11111, Myanmar - Phone: +95 1 230-5935
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