Baker & McKenzie is to merge with United Arab Emirates law firm Habib Al Mulla & Co.
Three sources in the region told The Lawyer that negotiations were taking place last month (6 March 2013), with Bakers carrying out extensive due diligence on the 50-lawyer Abu Dhabi and Dubai outfit.
The local firm of roughly five partners is led by founder Habib Al Mulla, the first chairman of the Dubai Financial Services Authority, with former Clifford Chance global procurement head Rob Morris, who joined from the magic circle firm in 2011, as CEO.
The firm, established in Dubai in 1984, has previously operated an association with Kennedys, which continued the local-law referral agreement despite opening its own office in Dubai in 2006 (15 May 2006). It is understood the formal relationship ended a number of years ago.
Bakers already has Middle East bases in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Cairo, Doha and Riyadh. The tie-up adds Dubai to the list, but it is understood a main driver behind the talks is the US firm’s wish to bolster its Abu Dhabi offering, in which it is said to see room for improvement.
“The legal landscape in the UAE continues to become more sophisticated, as do client requirements,” commented Habib Al Mulla. “A large number of our clients have requirements on a regional and global scale and our merger will present them with an opportunity to work with a single firm both at home and abroad.”
Bakers was not available for comment at the time of writing.