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Full summary of Israel’s 2nd Foreign Law Firms’ Conference – Tel-Aviv, Dec. 2014‎

Israel’s 2nd Foreign Law Firms’ Conference was held at December 9th, 2014. The conference was held under the Tel-Aviv District of the Israel Bar Association led by Adv. Efi Nave, and managed by Robus Legal Marketing Israel

More than 450 (!) attorneys participated, out of which ~100 were representatives and members of foreign law firms from around the globe. The conference was defined as “Israel‘s legal world largest event of 2014“, and brought together Israeli and foreign attorneys. For the conference full schedule, please click here

The conference was covered by the Israeli and foreign media, and was filmed in full – you can see the entire conference in a designated YouTube page. The conference provides a unique opportunity for networking with both international and Israeli law firms, and in addition – the conference will be held in conjunction with the Association of Corporate Counsel in Israel – ACC Israel

The 1st foreign law firms’ conference was a big success with hundreds (!) of Israeli and foreign law firms participating. For review on last year’s conference- Click here

Robus Legal Marketing Israel, an Israeli company which represents Foreign law firms in Israel, brings you a full summary of the panels and lectures, and in addition – the full videos of this unique conference. See you at the next conference


Click on the different lecture / panel below to see the summary

A)     Greetings: Efi Nave and Zohar Fisher

B)     Keynote speaker: General (ret.) Yaakov Amidror

C)     Panel 1: Israel in the Eyes of Global Law Firms

D)     The Global Legal Market – Changes and Trends‎

E)     Israel’s Legal Market – Where Do We Go from Here

F)     Panel 2: Israel Under the Microscope

G)     China Panel – The Dragon Is Awake

H)     Israel’s Trade Policy with Asia: Adv. Eytan Epstein, Mr. Ran Cohen‏‏‏

I)     Panel 4: ‏Start-up Nation Vs. Exit Nation‏‏‏

Relevant links

  • for the Conference full agenda- please click here
  • for the Conference YouTube page- please click here
  • for the 1st conference (2013) – please click here
  • for the conference summary in Hebrew (עברית)- please click here


Greetings: Efi Nave and Zohar Fisher

Adv. Zohar Fisher, founder of Robus (Legal Marketing Israel) opened the proceedings by welcoming the guests and pointing at that for a small country, getting more than 100 representatives of law firms from around the world into one room for a conference was an achievement to be proud of

He also highlighted what he believes to be an ideological purpose of this event: Adv. Fisher sees importance in an event like this from a Zionist perspective. As well as helping bring commercial opportunities to Israel, this conference shows that the country is still open for business despite the war in Gaza over the summer of 2014

Adv. Efi Nave, head of the Tel Aviv and Central District of the Israel Bar Association, also welcomed those who had come to the conference and highlighted the array of changes in the Israel legal market in recent years, especially given the introduction of a new law in 2012 permitting foreign firms to open offices in Israel for practicing foreign law


Keynote speaker: General (ret.) Yaakov Amidror 

General (ret.) Yaakov Amidror, former head of the National Security Council and a current member of the BESA Center at Bar Ilan University, used his keynote speech to describe Israel’s challenges as a nation in the middle of a region in turmoil. The Middle East has gone through dramatic geopolitical change in the past few years, and it is in Israel’s interest to repel the enemies that surround it in the chaotic Middle East

Israel is tiny relative to many of its neighbors; the size of New Jersey, it is swamped by 22 Arabs countries and, of course, the only Jewish state at the United Nations table. Country-specific condemnations under the Geneva Convention have disproportionately focused on Israel, which stands as one Jewish nation against 57 Islamic countries

General Amidror also praised Israel’s technological and agricultural advancements that meant economic security is now far better than it was. The discovery of the Tamar and Leviathan natural gas fields off the Mediterranean coast will result in oil prices for Israel falling even more, once distribution begins

Cyber-security has also become a bustling industry for Israel, with examples of this success including IBM’s launch of research facilities at CyberSpark in Be’er Sheva. Israel made the decision to be a leader in this area and now has more than 250 cyber-security startups, General Amidror said

General Amidror made it clear that achievements such as this could only happen if Israel is a democracy, hinting at a strong contrast with some of its neighbors.

He then went on to highlight a few existing and developing relationships with international players

Ties with the US are still strong: for instance, Israel has given America the blueprints for developing the Iron Dome missile defense technology, meaning the ally across the Atlantic could produce it if it wanted to. India is of growing importance, he said, adding that the Israeli Prime Minister is likely to visit the country next year

General Amidror concluded by singling out Israel’s record of producing smart entrepreneurs thanks to its almost universal army conscription, which often trains up thinkers by putting them through R&D and intelligence work at an early age. This has had positive effects for the Israeli economy


Panel 1: Israel in the Eyes of Global Law Firms

Moderator: Adv. Chaim Friedland, Gornitzky & Co
Adv. Scott Mortman, Greenberg Traurig
Adv. David Goldschmidt, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom
Adv. Bruce Alan Mann, Morrison & Foerster
Adv. Oren Harpaz, Dentons
Adv. Shy Jackson, Pinsent Masons

This panel was chaired by Adv. Chaim Friedland, partner at Gornitzky & Co. Adv. Friedland’s questions covered a broad range of issues, including foreign firms’ Israel strategies, the question of whether to open an office here, the potential impact on firms’ Gulf practices, and one of the most controversial topics: Will US firms compete with Israel firms and take away their business

Adv. Scott Mortman of Greenberg Traurig urged competitors to follow his firm’s lead and open an office Israel, which his shop did in 2012. Greenberg Traurig decided in 2002, during the Second Intifada, that this was the time to invest in Israel. Adv. Mortman insisted that the firm does not intend to compete with Israel firms

Meanwhile, Adv. David Goldschmidt, partner at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, highlighted the firm’s contrasting strategy: despite being founded in 1948, the same year as Israel’s establishment, Skadden has no fixed office in the State. The firm has never done a merger and will not be doing one in Israel

It has been doing Israel-related work for decades and continues to welcome many Israeli to the firm on its visiting lawyer programme. Goldschmidt estimates that there are also 50 Skadden alumni practicing in Israel – a handy network to have

Morrison & Foerster partner Adv. Bruce Alan Mann said his firm was “not so hungry” that it wants to open in Israel, while Adv. Oren Harpaz, partner at Dentons, said his firm has been busy with a large amount of Israel-related work. It also is unlikely to open a formal base here

Adv. Shy Jackson, partner at Pinsent Masons, said his firm’s strategy is to follow his clients where they need lawyers, which can mean doing work in Israel. Pinsent too has no plans for an Israel office, but it has carried out a large amount of legal work in the areas of cyber security, oil and gas and construction, among others

He added that having a presence in both Israel and the Gulf was not a damaging strategy, as evidenced by the success of many large international corporations with businesses in the both Israel and the Arab states.

In most cases, firms either hinted or said outright that legal fees were too low for an office to be practical. The strong theme from the discussion was that foreign firms do not want to compete with local firms, but this turned out to be a more fiercely discussed question later in the conference


The Global Legal Market – Changes and Trends 

Mr. Aric Press, senior vice president and editor in chief of American Lawyer Media (The American Lawyer), or ALM, spoke to the audience in Tel Aviv through a video recorded back in New York

After apologizing not being able to come in person, he described the state of the US legal market as he saw it, which he dubbed the “largest legal market the good Lord ever created”. Around $255bn is spent annually on legal services in the US, of which roughly two thirds is spent by American businesses on domestic matters

The 200 largest firms in the country have grown and now accounting for 47 per cent of every dollar spent on legal services by corporate entities in the US. Mr. Press said it remained to be seen what would happen next to these top firms as he cannot imagine them growing even more

Mr. Press said equity partner numbers in the top 200 US firms had shrunk, but leverage was up, meaning – never have so many lawyers at these firms worked so hard to benefit so few

Finally, Mr. Press highlighted the segmented nature of the US legal market. Only ten firms account for two thirds of American lawyers working abroad. And perhaps more seriously, just 10 per cent of the top 200 have seen rises in revenue and profits since the start of the recession in 2008, while the other 90 per cent have largely stayed the same

Mr. Press concluded by saying that US firms are unlikely to open offices in Israel but some are interested in the market for the purposes of winning work for Israeli companies, principally in the technology sector, who do business in America- They have, if you like, offices on El Al or in the Delta terminal that will largely accomplish what they may need, both for now and in the future,” he said


Israel’s Legal Market – Where Do We Go from Here

Adv. Zohar Fisher, founder of Robus Legal Marketing
Dr. Ido Baum Associate Professor, Haim Striks School of Law at The College of Management – Academic Studies, and the in-house legal commentator of the leading financial newspaper- The Marker

Adv. Zohar Fisher, founder of Robus Legal Marketing, conducted a conversation with Dr. Ido Baum Associate Professor, Haim Striks School of Law at The College of Management – Academic Studies, and the in-house legal commentator of the leading financial newspaper- The Marker

As a result from the ongoing interest in the Israeli legal market, Adv. Fisher started with the stimulating question – is the Israeli legal market unique to the foreign lawyers and law firms

In addressing this issue, Dr. Ido Baum described the wide supply of professionals and capable lawyers in the Israeli market as cause to the ongoing interest. He went on to describe the ‘superstar phenomena’ where you have a lawyer that his reputation exceeds his excellent law firm’s reputation. In Dr. Baum opinion, law firms cannot survive without those- rainmakers

Adv. Fisher agreed, indicating that more and more foreign law firms approach his company’s mergers department not only out of interest in a merger with an Israeli law firm, but also since they want to fetch one of these rainmakers in particular. In response, Dr. Baum stated that one of the reasons for this international attention might be the fact that many Israeli lawyers are more than capable to work in the United States while charging much lower legal fees than their US counterparts

Tackling this issue from another angle, Adv. Fisher asked whether big foreign law firms have room in Israel, which is a very small country

Dr. Baum stated that while he doesn’t know what the Israeli legal market is going to look like in 5 years’ time, he does know what should look like. The first step according to him must be proper regulation, contrary to the contemporary regulation which might be describes as chaotic

In addition, the Israeli market and many local companies will require foreign financing, which will in turn attract many investors who seek opportunities for investment. Dr. Baum added that some of the local law firms already represent such companies in foreign financing procedures

Finally, Adv. Fisher discussed with Dr. Baum the practice fields of the future, inquiring on the next practice fields that law firms should develop in Dr. Baum’s opinion

Dr. Baum responded by pointing out to the cyber securities and renewable energy practice fields, that are already being developed by many local law firms. In addition, local law firms should also develop the private wealth practice field, as many very wealthy people lives in Israel, as well as the infrastructure & project finance practice

According to Dr. Baum, the last practice may be particularly appealing to international infrastructure companies, who can take the experience and knowledge gained while working on a project in Israel, and demonstrate it in other projects and opportunities available in many developing countries


Panel 2: Israel Under the Microscope

Moderator: Adv. Avraham Well, Fischer Bechar Chen Well Orion & Co
Adv. Shlomo Landress, Amit Pollak Matalon & Co
Adv. Menachem Gurman, Steinmatz Haring Gurman & Co
Adv. Richard Mann, Gross Kleinhendler Hodak Halevy Greenberg & Co
Adv. Jeremy Lustman, DLA Piper
Adv. Ron Klein, Holland & Knight

‘Israel Under the Microscope’ panel dealt with the changes and trends in the Israeli legal market, a market considered one of the most competitive in the world, with a global record of 1 attorney for every 150 citizens. With more and more attorneys joining this market every year, the legal fees drop correspondingly. In addition, the market is also affected by the international trends within the legal profession worldwide

Adv. Shlomo Landress of Amit Pollak Matalon & Co. and Adv. David Shapira of Yigal Arnon & Co. mentioned that the saturated market indeed poses a concern, however one that has little to do with the large law firms who get to choose the best lawyers and are, in fact, not competing with the smaller law firms when hiring attorneys

Adv. Menachem Gurman of Steinmatz Haring Gurman & Co. added that not only do the large firms get to choose the attorneys they want; they also have the luxury of making a profit while keeping the legal fees low

The participants also discussed the trends and developments within the Israeli market in recent years, including the cyber field, green energy and the international field, namely opening up practices in new countries and jurisdictions. The participants also mentioned the adverse effect dropping fee rates, adding that without proper regulation tackling this issue, some law firms may be forced to close down in the future

Adv. Avraham Well, Fischer Bechar Chen Well Orion & Co. raised the issue of law firms’ growth, and inquired whether it’s a positive trend or one which may hinder law firms’ management capacity

Adv. Richard Mann, Gross Kleinhendler Hodak Halevy Greenberg & Co. suggested that law firms’ growth is largely manifested in the trend of mergers, which has certainly become pervasive in the past several years in Israel and elsewhere. He argued that while growing through a merger, a law firm must bear in mind and internalize the impact the merger will have on its legal practice

Adv. David Shapira agreed to that point, adding however that a large law firm means also an increased capacity to deal with financial and media issues concerning the firm, without having to decrease the legal work performed. In addition, Adv. Shapira contended that the trend of growth will intensify in the coming years, and we shall see more and more firms crossing the 200 attorney line, including his own firm

Adv. Avraham Well pointed out to the reform allowing foreign law firms to operate in Israel. What, in essence, attracts foreign law firms to Israel

Adv. Jeremy Lustman, DLA Piper, revealed that his firm has always considered Israel as an important and strategic market. Adv. Lustman added the international breadth of his firm and connections throughout the globe facilitated its penetration to Israel, and allowed it to offer a wide gamut of professional services

Adv. Menachem Gurman highlighted the advantages of having an Israeli office in a foreign country, which may lead to learning from other jurisdictions, increasing the breadth of practice areas, improving managerial capacities and, of course, creating an international network of connections which helps a law firm to promote its clients

At this point Adv. Well touched upon an intriguing question – do the foreign law firms compete with their Israeli counterparts? And if not, why

Adv. Ron Klein, Holland & Knight confessed that when practicing a unique niche like his firm does, there is little point in competing against Israeli firms. In contract, Adv. Jeremy Lustman argued that the competition does exist, but in the end of the day the advantages of cooperation between foreign and Israeli law firm outweigh the disadvantages


China Panel – The Dragon Is Awake

Moderator: Adv. Yaacov Yisraeli of Shibolet & Co.
Adv. Amit Ben Yehoshua, China-based Dacheng Law Offices
Adv. Eyal Khayat, Yingke Israel
Adv. Ilan Cohn, Reinhold Cohn Group
Adv. Tali Mirsky, global VP of Frutarom
Adv. Sungbo Shim, Squire Patton Bogs

The moderator of the panel, Adv. Yaacov Yisraeli of Shibolet & Co., opened the panel by reminding us all why it is important to have a China panel in a conference like Israel’s 2nd Foreign Law Firms conference, that reason being the fast-growing rate of Chinese investments in Israel. Chinese companies are competing in very important tenders and investing millions in Israeli companies, and this trend is in constant growth

Adv. Amit Ben Yehoshua from China-based Dacheng Law Offices agreed with Adv. Yisraeli, and provided a broader and more detailed picture of what China is. He started his presentation with a sentence that summarizes his perception of China: “When I think about China, I think Risks and Opportunities” he said – the secret is to balance between the two

Adv. Ben Yehoshua believes that China is the new “Golden Medina”, as the USA was in the past. In his opinion, if a company is not thinking of China, it’s not thinking of the future. Nevertheless, from a business and legal standpoint, it’s crucial for foreign companies to hire a Chinese law firm that specializes in international law

China is moving fast. Even though China opened itself to the international world only in 1978, today it is the second largest economy in the world. As for Israel, while the first major Chinese investment in Israel was in 2010, today every 8th transaction in Israel involves a Chinese company. To understand China’s growth speed you need to “imagine flying on the back of a dragon in the speed of light”, Adv. Ben Yehoshua said

Next lawyer to talk was Adv. Eyal Khayat. He is the managing partner of Yingke Israel, the largest China-based law firm measured by the number of lawyers. The moderator asked Adv. Khayat what is the role of the Israeli branch in Yingke’s activity. He answered that they act as a buffer between their Israeli clients and Chinese colleagues. They facilitate the process of cooperation by directing the client into the right office, department or partner of Yingke China

Adv. Ilan Cohn, senior partner of Intellectual law firm Reinhold Cohn Group, was a key speaker in the panel. According to Cohn, Israeli companies do not make efforts to file a patent application due to China’s bad reputation of patent protection

Adv. Cohn believes this is a serious mistake, pointing out to China having the largest number of patent application filed in the world, with 2 million annual patent applications. The government of China understands the importance of fixing the reputation of the country and has placed intellectual property as one of the major focuses of its economic development

They have issued encouragement programs for companies to file patent applications, established two intellectual property courts and implemented a broad IP supportive policy

Adv. Tali Mirsky, global VP of Frutarom, briefly reviewed her company’s history of activity in China from the early 90′, until the latest expansion and production moves it carries out in China today

Adv. Mirsky candidly mentioned that her initial personal experience of working with China was not that good, but that all changed once they found the right legal counsel to work with, which, interestingly enough, was not a Chinese but an international firm with local Chinese representatives. Nevertheless, she is aware that the environment in China has changed and she recommends companies- not to be afraid of China

Last, we had the delight to listen to Adv. Sungbo Shim, managing partner of the Beijing office of Squire Patton Bogs. He has a vast experience working with Israel and had a few insights to share about Israelis, revealing that he has been coming to Israeli on an annual basis ever since 2001. He enjoys the informal and less bureaucratic environment and he respects the ability of Israelis to recognize value immediately


Israel’s Trade Policy with Asia – Today and Tomorrow: Adv. Eytan Epstein, Mr. Ran Cohen

Mr Ran Cohen, chairman of the Standards Institute of Israel, President of the Israel-Asia Chamber of Commerce and former Minister of Industries, Trade and Labor
Adv. Eytan Epstein, partner at EKT – Epstein Knoller Chomsky Osnat Gilat Tenenboim & Co

Mr Ran Cohen, chairman of the Standards Institute of Israel, President of the Israel-Asia Chamber of Commerce and former Minister of Industries, Trade and Labor was speaking in conversation with Adv. Eytan Epstein, partner at EKT – Epstein Knoller Chomsky Osnat Gilat Tenenboim & Co

Cohen had just returned from a visit to China and highlighted the importance of working with the Chinese. He mentioned the importance of recognizing difference across the continent and spoke about the interest in Israel among certain Asia countries because of its Christian connection

Mr. Cohen described the workings of the Israel-Asia Chamber of Commerce, which he said operates independently of the Government despite also having close contacts with it. Its activities include delegations in both directions: in one week it might have as many as three or four delegations from China alone and will sometimes have visits from India and Korea too at the same time. It also benefits from the existence of sister China-Israel chambers in Beijing and Shanghai

He stressed the importance of understanding local cultures in different places and highlighted certain challenges in China resulting from the way business works there. He singled out his trip to Sri Lanka, which he was surprised to find was very different from India and far more influenced by Western culture

Adv. Epstein asked whether Israel should be worried about China buying up Israel’s technology. Mr Cohen did not see this as a problem, instead talking about how wealth and the standard of living have increased so dramatically in China over a few decades

Mr Cohen concluded by saying that the Israeli Government and embassies needed to help Israeli businesses and other organizations, such as universities, to market themselves in Asia


Panel 4: Start-up Nation Vs. Exit Nation

Moderator: Adv. Michael Barnea, Barnea & Co
Adv. Nimrod Rosenblum, Epstein Rosenblum Maoz- ERM
Adv. Ariel Nachman, Simmons & Simmons
Adv. Gideon Rosenberg, VP Legal Affairs of Mellanox Technologies Ltd
Adv. Nitzan Hirsch-Falk, H-F & Co
Adv. Yael Biran, Mintz Levin
Adv. Shy Baranov, Zisman, Aharoni, Gayer & Co

This panel covered the legal aspect of the Israeli high-tech scene, which has seen rapid growth during the recent years. Among the noticeable trends in the Israeli high-tech sector are the increase in number of IPO’s on NASDAQ, tech solutions for the medical industry and of course the field of software and mobile apps. The legal market is also growing correspondingly, as high-tech lawyers are becoming ever more expert in servicing the needs of this unique sector

Adv. Michael Barnea, Barnea & Co. asked the panel members about the trends and different niches within the high-tech field in Israel in 2014

Adv. Yael Biran, Mintz Levin replied by mentioning the powerful bond between the internet and the medical device industry, a trend effecting the entire healthcare industry worldwide, and also pointed out to the developed cyber practice in Israel

Adv. Ariel Nachman, Simmons & Simmons agreed and added the fast-growing clean-tech industry in Israel and abroad as one of the more central trends in his view

At this point Adv. Barnea raised the issue of Israel as the ‘Exit Nation’. The country has seen multiple multi-million dollar exits in recent years. Is this indeed a positive trend

Adv. Nitzan Hirsch Falk, H-F & Co. explained that unlike many other industries, the production process in the high-tech sector is quite rapid. Coupled with the quick manner in which companies raise funds, the outcome is large-scale exits in relatively short periods of time

Adv. Gideon Rosenberg, VP Legal Affairs of Mellanox Technologies Ltd also addressed the issue, and attributed much importance to scaling up Israeli companies who have been bought and keeping them within Israel, which will in turn contribute greatly to Israel’s financial stability. In contrast, Adv. Yael Biran contended that many Israeli companies who have been purchased continue to be run by Israeli executives, making Israel renowned throughout the world as a high-tech powerhouse

At this point, Adv. Barnea inquired about the connection between the high-tech sector and the legal world, and the interplay between the two

Adv. Shy Baranov, Zisman Aharoni Gayer & Co. said that there are multiple ways in which high-tech and lawyers effect each other. As an example, Adv. Baranov mentioned the M&A as a legal field largely related to the high-tech practice, and the network of connections throughout the globe that many law firms have, in part, due to their high-tech practice

Adv. Barnea raised the issue of the security situation in Israel, and whether or not the Israeli economy is affected by it, in particular in light of operation Protective Edge in Gaza 2014

Adv. Nimrod Rosenblum, ERM – Epstein Rosenblum Maoz, confessed that clearly the Israeli Palestinian conflict can have an adverse effect on an Israeli law firms, in light of the political opinion of their foreign business associates

However, often times the opposite occurs, that is Israeli companies and law firms receiving praise and respect by their foreign counterparts for managing to keep business as usual amidst geopolitical tension. Adv. Hirsch Falk agreed, adding that many times the impression of the foreign party is determined by the conduct of the Israeli party, and the amount of confidence and calmness it projects


Relevant links

  • for the Conference full agenda- please click here
  • for the Conference YouTube page- please click here
  • for the 1st conference (2013) – please click here
  • for the conference summary in Hebrew (עברית)- please click here

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