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The Abu Dhabi office will focus on hotel and leisure work, and will be staffed by one partner and four associates transferred from London.
Partner John Sipling of the hotels and leisure practice will head the office, joined by an associate each from the firm’s business and technology, corporate tax, engineering and construction and real estate groups.
They will be supported by 20 lawyers based in London who do Gulf-related work.
Managing partner Neville Eisenberg said the firm would be looking at opening other offices in the region.
Once established in Abu Dhabi, we intend to look at the other opportunities in the region. Our real estate practice and brand is strong enough to export it internationally.”
The office opening is a significant move for BLP, which to date has overseas offices only in Brussels, Paris and Singapore, while making use of a non-exclusive network elsewhere.
Abu Dhabi was chosen over Dubai or other jurisdictions in the Gulf, Eisenberg said, because of a “good flow of work from the Emirate,” which includes client Aldar Properties, which is investing in hotel work.
Some Abu Dhabi-based clients are widely understood to stipulate that international firms have a presence on the ground if they want to win the best-quality work.
But Eisenberg denied that this was a motivation for the launch: “I am not aware of any stipulation along these lines. A common feature across the region is that a presence makes a difference.”
The associates transferring to Abu Dhabi are: Anna Cumming (corporate tax), Charlotte Pham (business and technology), Charles Lilley (engineering and construction), and Tom Calnan (real estate).