Firms unwilling to say ‘howdy’ to Saudi

With some of the largest oil reserves in the world, a huge drive for diversification and a population dwarfing that of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia is the place to be for firms seeking big bucks in the Middle East. The problem is, their lawyers just don’t feel the same.

Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Linklaters have all invested heavily in the Middle East and have bases in nearby Dubai, yet have so far failed to open a base in its neighbour to the west.

Even Norton Rose, a Middle East veteran, with offices in Dubai and Bahrain, Trowers & Hamlins, with offices in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Dubai and Oman, and DLA Piper, with a base in Dubai and set to have offices everywhere bar the moon by 2010, have all failed to open in Saudi.

True, foreign firms do need a local merger partner. But is that really the problem?Or is it a reluctance on the part of Western lawyers to live there? Get the latest news and an irreverent commentary delivered to your desktop every day by subscribing to Lawyer News Daily.

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