"We act mainly for large foreign clients who are looking to invest in Myanmar’s development. For us, it is critical to be in Myanmar and we are finding many opportunities here with both existing clients of the firm and new investors looking at Myanmar as a growth opportunity," said Chris Hughes, managing partner of Yangon office, in an exclusive interview.
The local legal office was opened in February, only to overcome challenges. Several law firms have been making efforts to have their teams on the ground, but they are still struggling to get clients.
It seems to be so at Baker & McKenzie, which is targeting corporates in banking and finance, power, oil and gas, telecommunications and the consumer goods sectors. Hughes said that for now, his firm is seeking good professional relations with a few similar firms here.
The preparation period was lengthy. The opening of the local office followed two years after the Myanmar-oriented legal centre was opened in Bangkok. All services to companies vying to make an entry into Myanmar were offered from the Bangkok office. During the time, five Myanmar lawyers were trained in Bangkok and all offices in Southeast Asian nations lent help in preparing for the entry. Hughes himself moved from Sydney to head the local office, which was the firm’s 75th in the world as well as the 16th in Asia Pacific.
Like other foreign companies with presence in the country, Baker & McKenzie is spending a lot of time on capacity building of the 16 staff – half on the legal team and half on the business team. Training in the English language, information technology, professional skills and legal services is in focus, due to shortage of skilled labour.
Thinawat Bukhamana, the managing partner of the Bangkok office, admitted that there is more work to be done.
"I think we need to grow together with Myanmar’s economy. Within five years, we are going to be hardworking. We are confident that we can work closely with the government and businesses here to be successful in the future," he said.
Hughes plans to expand the legal team, expecting to draw more talents in the coming years.
In an effort to strengthen its business expansion in Myanmar, two representatives from Baker & McKenzie joined other senior business leaders to meet with President Thein Sein and other senior officials in Nay Pyi Taw last month as part of the US-Asean Business Council Mission to Myanmar. They also met opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Kien Keong Wong, one of the representatives, committed to promote responsible investments in the country by helping foreign firms to meet legal requirements in order to help Myanmar on its road to sustainable economic development and employment creation.
"As Myanmar continues its transition to a more open and transparent economy, we remain supportive through investing in and training local talent to provide high-quality and reliable service, and to benefit its professional services sector," said Wong.
Published : August 14, 2014
By : Khine Kyaw Myanmar Eleven