Ashurst is to launch in Abu Dhabi in early 2008, creating its twelfth international and second Middle East offering, The Lawyer can reveal.
The office will be headed by energy partner David Wadham, who came to the top 10 firm in 2006 from International Power Middle East, where he was general counsel.
At least five lawyers will join him from within Ashurst and from other firms. The office, which is awaiting its licence, will focus on corporate, financing and projects work.
Ashurst follows Allen & Overy (A&O) and DLA Piper, which have both opened offices in the emirate in the past six months.
Ashurst already has a five-partner Dubai office and has made no secret of wanting to develop in the Middle East. Clients from, or active in, Abu Dhabi include the Abu Dhabi Investment Company and First Gulf Bank.
Wadham, who lives in Abu Dhabi but who works in Ashurst's Dubai office, told The Lawyer: "Abu Dhabi companies have a strong desire to be serviced by firms on the ground in Abu Dhabi rather than in Dubai. There's a potentially interesting client base in Abu Dhabi and our feeling is that the best way to do more work for them is to be on the ground here."