Norton Rose Bahrain chief vows to stay in the country

Staff from Baker & McKenzie and Norton Rose are staying in Bahrain despite warnings from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to evacuate all British nationals except for those whose “presence is essential”.
The FCO has itself reduced its Bahrain Embassy staff to core level, which will seriously restrict consular services. Yesterday (Monday 17 March) the FCO also advised British nationals in Kuwait to leave immediately while commercial flights are still running.
Norton Rose has offered to fly out anyone who wants to leave its Bahrain office, but the office managing partner Carol Roberts has decided to stay in Bahrain.
Roberts said she is leaving it up to individual lawyers to decide whether they stay or leave. “I am not telling anyone to get out but if they are uncomfortable staying here then they are free to return to London, although it is difficult to get flights out of the country at present,” she said. However, she added that she is reviewing the situation daily.
Roberts said she does not feel threatened by anti-western feeling, although she admits there are more demonstrations than before. “I’m being more careful about where I drive my car. We are trying to avoid areas where anti-western demonstrations are taking place,” she said.
A spokesperson for the firm initially declined to comment on whether there were alternative plans for the evacuation of remaining personnel in the event that commercial airlines shut up shop. She merely said: “We are keeping a close eye on things.”
However, the firm later added in a statement: “We have a contingency plan in place for the Bahrain office, which follows FCO advice and is based on the timely repatriation of dependants and non-essential staff.”
Baker & McKenzie’s office is run by UK partner Ian Siddell. A Bakers spokesperson said the firm would be supporting both staff who want to stay and those who want to leave. However, she said that the office remains open and “today it is very much business as usual”.
The spokesperson said she was sure there were alternative evacuation plans for foreign staff should scheduled flights be suspended.
White & Case offices in Riyadh and Jeddah are on a low level of alert because of the distance between them and Iraq.
Sandy Kritzalis, head of White & Case’s Middle East practice, said lawyers in those offices are updated on security through membership of an information network known locally as the Warden System. The system was established before the last Gulf War.
“Members of the network receive messages relayed by embassies and can quickly disseminate them. Various western business groups which are part of the network are in regular dialogue with their corresponding embassies,” he said.