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Cuba: open for business

Posted by: Laurence Simons 02/06/15

Have you heard of Peter Quinter? In the 1990s, he practiced as a US customs service attorney in Miami, enforcing America’s 55-year trade embargo against Cuba by ensuring that no people or products illegally entered the island. So what’s he doing now that embargo has been lifted? After entering private practice in 1994, he has been selected to lead a delegation of lawyers to Cuba, organised by the International Law Section of the Florida Bar, to learn about its business and legal systems.

Firms taking advantage of upcoming areas and specialities are reaping the benefits – and this is a trend we have witnessed globally. For example, we wrote in our latest newsletter of the African Development Bank’s plans to form a new African Business Law Firms Association (ABLFA) to promote the development of the legal profession across the continent. And over in Shanghai, Baker & McKenzie has become the first western law firm licenced to advise on local law in an agreement with FenXun, a local corporate specialist practice, to collaborate on client matters.

The advantages to practices of rooting themselves in fresh new markets are unprecedented. Not only is competition a lot shallower, but the opportunities to learn and experience local law adds new strings to each firm’s bow, increasing their influence and knowledge base. It is hardly difficult to understand why this is the target for so many global practices, but finding the right locations and acting at the perfect time takes market vigilance.
It is widely known to be very time-consuming to tackle a new, up-and-coming area, with many regulations it can be easy to trip over. Jim Whisenand, a lawyer who has been involved in Cuban business, has commented on the current legal market: “It moves very slow…it can take a lot of patience to do anything in Cuba”.

So, where do you think the next legal hotspot will be?