Clydes prepares for Tripoli launch with hire of Libyan Investment Authority GC

Clyde & Co is set to become the first international firm to open a base in post-Gaddafi Libya after it hired Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) general counsel Albudery Shariha.

The news comes a week after the firm announced its move into the Australia market through the hire of an insurance team from Linklaters alliance firm Allens (2 July 2011).

Clydes partner and board member Ben Knowles said the Libyan market represented “huge opportunities” for Clydes as the country unwinds the investments made by the LIA under the Muammar Gaddafi regime and international companies move into the region.

“Potentially Libya’s a very wealthy country,” Knowles said. “From an energy perspective it’s huge, it has the world’s eighth largest oil reserves; from a litigation perspective there’s also a lot going on.”

Clydes has long had an eye on the Libyan market, with former partner Paul Turner, who handled defamation issues for Gaddafi, telling The Lawyer in 2009 that the country offered lucrative business opportunities (7 September 2009).

Turner quit the firm a year later for Middle East rival Al Tamimi & Co, but his departure did not halt Clydes’ ambitions. In January the firm appointed Trowers & Hamlins partner Adrian Creed, who had played a key role in building that firm’s Libya group (11 January 2012).

According to Knowles Creed had an existing working relationship with Shariha, who was looking to join an international firm rather than a domestic outfit, and the approach was made.

Creed said: “Albudery is one of the foremost lawyers in Libya and we’re delighted that he’s driving forward this initiative. His expertise will be invaluable. We expect to undertake a mix of contentious and non-contentious work for Libyan government entities and international clients.”

The LIA was established in 2006 by Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam with the aim of investing in international projects. Those assets were frozen in the aftermath of the collapse of the regime and, said Knowles, the LIA has since been busy recovering sovereign funds.

Clydes’ Tripoli office will launch on 1 August, when Shariha will join the firm with four associates. Creed is planning to split his time between the base and the firm’s Abu Dhabi office. The firm is also set to recruit both domestic and international associates and partners to meet the anticipated demand.

Clydes is no stranger to far-flung regions. In the last year it has established a best-friends relationship with Zimbabwe-base firm Scanlen and Holderness (24 November 2011) and entered Mongolia via an association with local firm Khan Lex Advocates (12 March 2012).

The firm is planning to expand its China network and is considering a Beijing base, while also looking at how best to expand its US network.

Last week, the firm reported a 36 per cent rise in revenues to £287m (5 July 2012). According to the firm the revenue hike, which brings the firm’s total turnover to £287m, represents a like-for-like rise on Clydes’ 2010-11 turnover of £212m but also includes revenues generated by Barlow Lyde & Gilbert, which Clydes acquired in November 2011 (8 August 2011).