Report: DLA Piper Expanding African Network to Algiers

, The Am Law Daily

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Algiers, Algeria.
Algiers, Algeria.

UPDATE/CORRECTION: 1/27/14, 11:00 a.m. EST. DLA Piper has officially announced its opening in Algeria by adding several lawyers from French firm Lefevre Pelletier's local affiliate in Algiers. The seventh paragraph of this story mistakenly included the name of one Lefevre Pelletier partner who has not joined DLA. We regret the error.

As noted in The American Lawyer’s latest Focus Europe supplement, Am Law 100 firms are opening offices and forging alliances across Africa in a race to capitalize on deal work tied to the abundance of natural resources on the booming continent.

Amid the rush, DLA Piper—the world’s largest firm by gross revenue and lawyer head count—is poised to add to its already-robust network on the continent by entering Algeria with an office in the country's capital, Algiers, according to a report by Africa Intelligence.

DLA's move into the energy-rich North African nation comes a little more than a year after Baker & McKenzie—the world's second-largest firm in terms of revenue and head count—announced it would open an outpost in nearby Morocco. Baker's official expansion into the coastal city of Casablanca last year, a development noted by Africa Intelligence, followed similar moves by international firms Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Norton Rose Fulbright, according to our previous reports.

Algeria—whose border with Morocco has been closed since 1994, creating a barrier to regional trade that continues to enrich black marketeers—has not been as popular as its neighbor with the world's legal giants. The country's capital, Algiers, may be best known in Western circles for the famous 1957 battle waged between French forces and Algerian revolutionaries chronicled in the award-winning documentary film " The Battle of Algiers" a decade later.

Though Algeria is a member of OPEC and Africa’s largest country by landmass, the only Am Law 100 firms Algiers has attracted to date are Dentons—whose predecessor firm Denton Wilde Sapte forged an association six years ago with Hadj-Hamou & Djouadi—and the local affiliate of Thompson & Knight.

Meanwhile, many leading French firms—Gide Loyrette Nouel among them—also have offices in the city. And according to Africa Intelligence, it is French firm Lefevre Pelletier & Associes that DLA has raided for partners Fatima-Zohra Bouchemla and Mohamed Lanouar. Both lawyers' names had been removed from the Lefevre Pelletier website as of Thursday, and an email sent to Bouchemla at the firm was not immediately returned. A similar email sent to Lanouar’s firm account bounced back.

Africa Intelligence reports that the pair will form a new Algerian outfit called BL & Associes that will function as a DLA affiliate. Lanouar is a former Algerian communications minister, while Bouchemla specializes in dispute resolution. Others joining the new firm are ex–Lefevre Pelletier associate Ryma Allouche, who changed her personal LinkedIn account to reflect BL & Associes’ affiliation with DLA.

Algeria has had a turbulent history, suffering through a brutal decade-long civil war that pitted the current government against Islamist rebels. The conflict ended in 2002, but its repercussions still resonate today.

Last year health problems forced Algeria’s longtime president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, to spend four months in Paris. Bouteflika, who is currently mulling a 2014 run for a fourth term as president, may face competition from Algerian lawyer Ali Benflis, the former secretary general of the country’s ruling National Liberation Front. According to Africa Intelligence, DLA's Bouchemla is backing Benflis, whom she once served as a minister-delegate during the latter's own tenure as prime minister from 2000 to 2003.

Algeria is technically a constitutional republic, but Bouteflika is the face of a ruling party that includes unelected officials and military leaders, as noted in myriad U.S. diplomatic cables revealed by WikiLeaks. The Algerian government authorized a raid by security forces last year to retake control of a natural gas facility that had been seized by Al Qaeda–inspired militants. The attack on the facility—jointly owned by Algeria’s state oil company Sonatrach, BP and Statoil—resulted in the deaths of 39 foreign workers.

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