Like a local: International firms’ changing approach to Indonesia

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Allens partner and Jakarta-based foreign legal advisor David Holme shares insights into international firms’ changing approach to the Indonesian legal market.
“One of the things that attracted me to working in Indonesia was the dynamic and developing nature of the legal market,” said Allens partner David Holme, who has been working in Jakarta since 2007.
Since he first arrived in Indonesia, Holme has seen a number of new entrants to the local market and watched firms’ emphasis shift from a fly-in-fly-out model to something more permanent. “There are a number of new entrants that have established relationships with existing Indonesian firms and even some who’ve helped sponsor or help set up new Indonesian firms that they cooperate with, particularly amongst the Magic Circle firms and even some of the big US firms,” he said.
“Where previously firms thought it was possible just to do it from offshore and fly-in-fly-out and work with a range of Indonesian firms, I think increasingly people are looking at providing really integrated service across the region and that includes people on the ground in Indonesia.”
From Holme’s perspective, it has become increasingly difficult for firms to say that they understand the Indonesian market when they are purely based offshore. However, he said that succeeding in Indonesia does not simply come down to a local presence.
“I think equally you need to be able to leverage the offshore resources and the specialist experience because the development of the legal market in Indonesia is such that there’s not yet specialist expertise in a number of areas,” he said.
“You need to be able to leverage that expertise that you have in the network offshore to bring the two together: the local knowledge and the local connections and the specialist expertise. Then you do need to have people offshore that have an eye to Indonesia, that have a focus and see it as part of their practice, but part of a broader practice because this market doesn’t demand full-time specialists in certain areas.”