Thriving in the face of adversity as politics and security play an integral part in everyday life is a default position for Israel. The data backs this up: recent OECD reports describe Israel as stable with strong economic growth: annual GDP has consistently risen by three to four percent over recent years to reach nearly $400bn in 2019. This, despite a protracted leadership battle taking place with two general elections in six months bringing the nation no closer to a conclusive result.
Michael Barnea, managing partner of Barnea, Jaffa, Lande & Co, develops the point: 'The environment is surprisingly robust considering the political instability that we've experienced for a considerable time. Investment, both from overseas into Israel and in the local market, is extremely strong and gives every appearance of being confident in the future.'
Despite international law firms being allowed to operate in Israel, they have invariably chosen not to. The legal market is therefore monopolised by domestic players, many of which have grown significantly and the main contributory factor has been a glut of mergers. According to David Tadmor, co-chairman and managing partner of Tadmor Levy, today the largest firm has close to 400 feeearners, whereas in 2000 it was around 65 lawyers. Herzog Fox & Neeman (HFN) is Israel's largest law firm, with 380 fee-earners, and at least 20 Israeli firms now have more than 100 lawyers. 'What sets us apart is that we have grown organically rather than through mergers
like some of our competitors,' says HFN infrastructure partner Mark Phillips.
'The environment is surprisingly robust. Investment is extremely strong and gives every appearance of being confident in the future.' Michael Barnea, Barnea, Jaffa, Lande & Co
Yudi Levy, managing partner of Goldfarb Seligman & Co, notes there has been a strong trend of large law firms merging with other large firms, smaller firms and specialised boutiques, or even absorbing entire departments of mid-sized firms - a pattern that is expected to continue in 2020. Levy's own firm was one of the first to begin the trend with the 2011 merger of Goldfarb, Levy, Eran, Meiri, Tzafrir and M. Seligman, and it recently acquired the real estate practice of Berkman Wechsler Bloom - meaning it lays claim to having the largest practice in Israel - alongside the opening of a new branch in Zurich focused on tax.
'There is fierce competition in Israel over clients; we have a lot of lawyers,' says Oded Oz, founding partner of Oz / Engel & Co. The Israel Bar Association now has over 80,000 members - twice the number of lawyers in Japan. Chargeout rates vary between $250 and $500 an hour at the top end, with an abundance of choice...