A&O launches in Saudi with local ally

Allen & Overy (A&O) has ramped up its international strategy today by launching in Saudi Arabia.

It joins magic circle rival Clifford Chance as one of the few Western firms to have a presence in the kingdom.

A&O announced today that it would be opening in Riyadh through an association with local firm Abdulaziz AlGasim.

Local laws demand that Western firms open through a local sponsor. A&O has known the managing partner of the firm, Abdulaziz AlGasim for some time, according to A&O’s managing partner, David Morley.

“You have to find the right sponsor. You have to have someone who’s a good cultural fit, compatible with our international strategy and has good local contacts in society and in the legal market,” Morley told The Lawyer.

“It’s all part of our strategic expansion. We’ve had a franchise in Dubai for over 30 years,” Morley continued. “It made eminent sense for us to grow our footprint in the Middle East and we think the market conditions are very good right now to open in Saudi. There’s huge potential to grow.”

A&O will be parachuting banking and finance partner Julian Johansen in to Riyadh. Johansen has spent two years in the kingdom and has particular expertise in Islamic finance. He will be recruiting over time, said Morley. “But it’s all about finding the right people,” he added. “Saudi is a particularly complex jurisdiction.”

Separately the firm announced it had hired an Indian-qualified lawyer for its Singapore office from Mumbai-based J Sagar Associates.

Srinivas Parthasarathy will join A&O’s Singapore office, which is also an association with local firm Shook Lin & Bok. He will become a partner when he requalifies and will not be practising Indian law.

“This is consistent with our India strategy,” said Morley. “But he’ll be providing us with a good position and good contacts in India.”

The news follows just days after the firm announced that it would be providing an endowment to Bangalore University’s law school.