Fairmays is pulling out of its ill-fated Bahrain office at the end of March, following a sharp downturn in work since the events of 11 September
The firm moved to the region in 1991, just as the Gulf War started. Work was not forthcoming because of the conflict and it took 12-18 months before any sizeable instructions arrived. It specialised in the Middle East on small corporate work and for the expatriate community. Since the Gulf conflict, regional political disturbances have caused similar dips in work. For some time before 11 September there had been another decline period, which worsened sufficiently after the terrorist attacks, forcing the firm to take stock of its losses. Alistair Langford, managing partner of Fairmays, which has 32 fee-earners, including 10 partners, said: "Essentially, if something [bad] happens in the region, there's a lack of activity for us. A bigger firm can ride the dips better than we can. Bahrain is very close to Saudi Arabia and if Saudi Arabia sneezes then Bahrain catches a cold, for example. "Administration becomes a big drain, and we face disproportionate expenses in terms of running costs against the benefits of keeping going. It's been clear since the mid-1990s that we couldn't trade properly there." He said the office had suffered from "unfortunate experiences with people", and managing an office from several thousand miles away involved a lot of effort with "modest returns". Paradoxically, despite the firm's Middle Eastern presence, where it had three fee-earners, including one partner, Langford said: "Really our focus since the Bahrain office opened was further east." By this he means work from India, which generated a far higher turnover than the Middle East ever managed. The lucrative business arising out of India includes corporate immigration, corporate financing for small and medium-sized enterprises being set up in India, as well as in the UK by Indians, global depository receipt work and property and employment work. Fairmays has no plans to open an office in India due to bar regulations, cultural differences and the large distance between there and London.