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Ashurst is set to launch in Jeddah through an association with local in-house lawyer Faisal Adnan Baassiri as the firm aims to kick off its expansion in Saudi Arabia.
The firm will open in the city on 1 January next year with a practice headed by Baassiri, vice-president for legal affairs at the Saudi Economic and Development Company (Sedco), who will join Ashurst with the status of a partner.
It aims to expand to Riyadh, probably by extending the same tie-up to the Saudi capital, and plans to bring aboard further lawyers in both locations but has not set a strict timetable for the expansion.
Local regulations require any outpost to be set up as an associated office. Locally the base will be branded as the Law Office of Faisal Baassiri in association with Ashurst.
Baassiri, who will hold the licence to practise local law, joined Jeddah-based Sedco, a Sharia-compliant wealth management company and an Ashurst client, in 2006 and specialises in corporate law. He previously worked at Jeddah law firm Osama Yamani.
The office will focus on Ashurst’s energy, transport and infrastructure (ETI) practice and corporate aspects of these areas, covering local and outbound work.
Dubai managing partner Joss Dare, who took over as Middle East head a year and a half ago, told The Lawyer: “Our model is to start small. The idea is we’ll recruit one or two associates into the [Jeddah] office so there’s someone to do the initial work, plus we have people here in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
“A little while ago, when I took over as head of the Middle East, we had a review and concluded that we should be focusing on energy, transport and infrastructure, and corporate in those business sectors. The Jeddah thing is an extension of that strategy. The proposition is to do local work on the ground which is in these spheres, and Faisal himself will be doing corporate work, and in due course it’s about accessing those projects that we’d like to do.”
He added: “It’s the first step - we’re looking to expand into Riyadh as well but that will take as long as it takes to find the right people. It’s not always been an easy place for international firms to do business. At the heart lies the [question] of finding the right local firm to tie up with.”
Baassiri, with whom Dare and Ashurst have worked previously, added in a statement: “I’ve worked with law firms from all over the world and on a client level Ashurst always delivered an exemplary service.”
Ashurst already has two offices in the Middle East, in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, launching the latter in 2008 (12 November 2007). It was set up by ETI partner David Wadham, who returned to London last year (22 September 2011).
The move follows Cobbetts’ decision to set up an association with a lawyer in Jeddah earlier this year (20 September 2012).
Allen & Overy, meanwhile, is currently reviewing its association with Riyadh’s Abdulaziz AlGasim Law Firm, with which it set up an alliance in 2007 (19 June 2012).