Eversheds is putting corporate, banking and infrastructure at the heart of a new three-year Middle East strategy that is focused on consolidation.
Partners from the firm’s Middle East network met in December to sketch out regional implementation plans for the second firmwide three-year strategy.
Middle East managing partner Chris Jobson said: “We expect to see growth opportunities in the medium term in corporate, commercial, banking, both conventional and Islamic, litigation and infrastructure and projects and think we have the right resources to win additional work in these areas.
“If we see something new that complements what we already do we’ll look at it closely. Areas such as central or local government, transport or renewables might present such opportunities in the future.”
Eversheds launched its first and current firmwide three-year strategy in 2006, which covers 2009-12 and has five strands - international, London, profitability, workplace and clients.
The previous Middle East strand to the three-year strategy set out plans for office launches in Abu Dhabi, Doha and Saudi Arabia. Total Gulf staff grew from zero in 2006 to around 55 last year, 40 of whom are fee-earners.
However, Jobson emphasised that the current economic climate had led to a need for “consolidation and measured, profitable growth” rather than a string of office openings.
“We have no current plans to open new offices, but rather are focused on growing the business from the existing offices and strengthening some of our strategic relationships,” he said.
Overall, given the current economic uncertainties, we think it would be foolish to change a strategy that has served us well.”
The firm is also expanding its programme of bringing in local staff to its offices through the launch of a law student vacation scheme.
Gulf Cooperation Council citizens have traditionally been reluctant to join international firms due to a preference for working in the public sector and language and cultural barriers. But this is changing, with national governments pushing international employers to recruit locally.
Having already established a relationship with Al Ain University in the United Arab Emirates, two female students are expected to complete winter vacation schemes at Eversheds’ Abu Dhabi office. The firm is also looking at building relationships with institutions in Qatar.
Jobson explained: “The driver is to play our role in corporate social responsibility working in partnership with the state and we hope to find people who are interested in working with us. “Those firms that have made investments will remain in the region and those that have the cost base and service offering right have good prospects.
“Some firms still need to make adjustments and I don’t think we’ll see new entrants until we get further into recovery. Our challenge is to win a significant slice of work to make it harder for anyone not on top of their game or thinking of coming into the market.”