HFW expands Middle East presence to Saudi, Lebanon and Kuwait

Holman Fenwick Willan (HFW) has announced that it has forged three new associations to expand its Middle Eastern presence to Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Kuwait.

The firm has linked up with legacy Squire Sanders & Dempsey’s Saudi associate, Al-Enezee, to establish a presence in Riyadh. In Beirut, HFW will ally with El-Khoury & Partners. The two firms are already closely connected and have worked together for many years.

In Kuwait the firm will operate through an association with Rula Dajani Law Office, a firm set up by its Middle East managing partner Rula Dajani Abuljebain. She will work from both Dubai and Kuwait.

The announcement makes good on HWF’s promise to launch in the jurisdictions last year.

HFW has its own office in Dubai, with around 30 lawyers on the ground. It also operates in Abu Dhabi through an alliance with Salem Al Maddfa Advocates and Legal Consultants. The firm previously had an Saudi association with Allazam Law Office.

Senior partner Richard Crump said the Middle East had “become an increasingly important part of our growth strategy”.

HFW has been investing in its international capabilities lately. In an effort to show the importance of the Asian market for the firm last year senior partner Richard Crump relocated permanently to Singapore. As a region Asia represents a considerable investment for HFW with 20 per cent of the firm’s staff based on the continent.

The firm’s move into Saudi and expansion elsewhere in the Middle East continues a recent trend of expansion in the region. Last year Herbert Smith Freehills announced it would reopen in Riyadh through an exclusive association with local firm Nasser Al-Hamdan and the hire of two partners from DLA Piper and White & Case.

Dechert tied up with Jeddah practice Hassan Mahassni in September and earlier in 2015 Shearman & Sterling partnered with Saudi Arabia’s Abdulaziz Alassaf & Partners, allowing the firm to do business in Riyadh, Jeddah and Al-Khobar.

DLA Piper also announced it is planning to open two additional offices in the country by the end of 2015. The first of these offices will be run by legal director Rakesh Bassi and be based in Jeddah. Middle East firm Al Tamimi & Company also said it was expanding its presence in the jurisdiction to Jeddah.

Last year also saw a series of closures in the Middle East. Latham & Watkins closed in Doha and consolidated its Abu Dhabi and Dubai offices in March and Baker Botts closed its Abu Dhabi office, though it boosted its Dubai offering.

Foreign law firms have generally shied away from opening in Lebanon and Kuwait. DLA Piper has a joint venture in Kuwait with local firm Al Wagayan Al Awadhi & Al Saif, while Dentons operates in Beirut through an association with Chedid Law Offices. The firm pulled out of Kuwait in 2013, shortly after US firm Curtis Mallet-Prevost Colt & Mosle ended a short-lived association there.