Allen & Overy will be the first magic circle firm to set up shop in Africa with the opening of its new Casablanca office in September.

After the rush of UK firms to set up in Australia, Africa seems to be next on the hit-list. And Morocco - given its position in the North of the continent and its relative stability - is a pretty attractive spot for accessing work in Africa, the Middle East and Southern Europe.

However, A&O's first foray onto African soil will be relatively low key at first. According to a report in The Lawyer, corporate partner François Duquette is being shipped over from Dubai to assist three local lawyers poached from the Casablanca offices of Gide Loyrett Nouel. Which has put something of a dent in Gide's office.

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A&O's Bogart impersonator Managing Partner Wim Dejonghe gushed that Morocco was "the perfect match for our global network". So perfect in fact that it warranted all the usual buzz-words: "fantastic platform", "key hub" and "emerging markets strategy".  But still it's a pretty good coup, especially if there's any truth to rumours that Clifford Chance was after the same team from Gide to set up its own Moroccan outpost.

And with A&O hoping that the new Casablanca office will be 25 lawyers strong by 2012, what can any European lawyers expect from a Moroccan stint? Well, according to the Lonely Planet, the "old pirate lair" is characterised by "suffocating traffic jams and simmering social tensions", which are offset by "bars, beaches and hip clubs". And gin joints too, of course.

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