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Focus Europe

I'm not usually one to hum show tunes as I work, but "My Fair Lady" happens to be one of my favorite musicals, and as we were working on this issue I found myself plagued by an unusually persistent earworm: "The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain."

For several years now, Spain has seen a lot of rain—not necessarily confined to the plain either. From failed banks to a sovereign debt crisis that tested the cohesion of the eurozone to excruciating unemployment levels, the downpour of bad news has been almost unrelenting. So I was surprised to learn last summer that White & Case had opened a brand-new office in Madrid with a team of 10 lawyers recruited from Latham & Watkins. Why would any sensible law firm want to be in Spain these days if it had a choice? I asked contributing writer Susan Hansen, a former American Lawyer writer who has been reporting on European legal markets for us for more than a decade, to find out what White & Case was doing there.

What she discovered turned out to be a bigger story than the adventures of one law firm. Spain has reached a point where prices for distressed assets have dropped to attractive levels for bargain-hunting acquirers while economic indicators have stabilized enough not to scare those investors away. More than one law firm is seeing some sunshine behind the storm clouds as a result. For the whole story, turn to our cover feature, "On Sale Now," starting on page 16.

To round out the picture, our chief European correspondent Chris Johnson took a look at M&A activity throughout Europe, and found more hopeful signs. Contrary to many predictions, those long-awaited Chinese investors still haven't arrived in force—but making up for their absence are buyers from the United States. His feature, "Revving the Engine," begins on page 20.

Other American arrivals in Europe may not be welcomed as heartily by lawyers and their clients. Class actions are likely to gain a stronger foothold in France, and Europe's first patent troll is battling Nokia. Read all about it in "Exclusionary Rule" (page 12) and "Monster Litigation" (page 62).