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July 28, 2011 2:52 PM

Norton Rose Latest International Firm to Announce Casablanca Office

Posted by Brian Baxter

Norton Rose will open an office in Casablanca by September, making it the third British firm in two weeks to announce plans for a Morocco presence, according to U.K. publication Legal Week.

The new office will be Norton Rose's second venture into the African market after its merger with South African firm Deneys Reitz last yearAllen & Overy announced its own plans for a Casablanca office on July 20, followed by Clifford Chance on July 25.

Alain Malek, a Paris-based corporate finance partner and head of Norton Rose's Middle East and North Africa practice, will spend about two-thirds of his time in Casablanca. Legal Week reports that Norton Rose is planning to relocate two associates from Paris who are Moroccan nationals to serve as full-time lawyers on the ground in Casablanca.

The Casablanca office will be Norton Rose's fifth in Africa, joining the firm's three offices in South Africa and an affiliated outpost in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Norton Rose has been busy in recent months adding lawyers to its African offices, and with the move to Morocco, the firm is targeting key sectors of growth such as financial institutions and energy and infrastructure. Norton Rose also expects its new Casablanca office to help bolster the firm's ten-year-old Francophone Africa group.

"We are already world leaders in Africa and extremely well established on the continent," said Norton Rose deputy managing partner Tim Marsden in a statement announcing the move. "We have been very active in the North African market for some years and Casablanca provides a further focus for our existing practice in that region."

Norton's move to Morocco is not in reaction to similar maneuvers by competitors, but had been in the works for some time, Marsden said.

Last week Clifford Chance announced that it would also open an office in Casablanca by the end of the year for its first office on the African continent. The announcement, which Clifford Chance had first hinted at in April, followed news that Magic Circle rival Allen & Overy would open its own Casablanca office by hiring two partners away from a local affiliate of French firm Gide Loyrette Nouel.

Earlier this year, another British firm, Eversheds, announced a cooperation agreement with a former associate for a possible future office in Morocco. Eversheds has had a base in Africa since 2008 when it merged with Johannesburg's Routledge Modise, Legal Week reports.

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