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Financial lawyer

Lawyers invest for EU expansionLaw firms move now to win future business in central and eastern Europe. By Nigel Page

The recently-concluded Helsinki Summit has focused attention on EU enlargement, with eastward expansion now firmly on the agenda. Along with the six countries already negotiating for candidacy (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Estonia and Cyprus), the EU has now agreed to initiate accession talks with Slovakia, Malta, Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia and Lithuania from the start of 2000.

Against this backdrop, came the November announcement from Linklaters & Alliance that it has decided to expand its central and eastern European presence (previously centred in Moscow, Prague and Warsaw) with a trio of new offices in Hungary, Slovakia and Romania. The development is powered by three high-profile lateral hires - with the Bucharest and Bratislava bridgeheads staffed by former Burns Schwartz local managing partners, and the Budapest office headed up by the former head of Clifford Chance's Hungarian finance practice group.

The move is interesting, evincing as it does a substantial commitment by one of the City's top finance practices to countries that are still very much on the periphery of headline market activity. Nick Eastwell, the Linklaters' partner responsible for central and eastern Europe, explains: "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts - investment banking clients are viewing this region as a long-term prospect and they can now see that we have a committed strategy in the region.

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