Middle East musings for Fenwick Elliot

Stories about US and UK firms in the Middle East have been polarising, of late. On the one hand we saw Herbert Smith cutting support jobs in Dubai in May and Simmons & Simmons cutting lawyers and support staff in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in January. On the other, Addleshaw Goddard opened in Dubai in September after pinching a partner from Trowers and Hamlins (11 July 2012) and Cleary GottliebSteen & Hamilton announced yesterday that it had opened an office in Abu Dhabi (6 September 2012 ).

Now, Fenwick Elliott’s senior partner Simon Tolson has said that he too is mulling an Middle East launch for the firm.

The boutique, which specialises in contentious construction work, wants to send a couple of partners to Doha and hire some local lawyers out there too.

It may be costly in terms of resources. With turnover of £9.6m, Fenwick Elliott is a small player compared with some that have offices in region – Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Eversheds, Simmons & Simmons and SNR Denton to name a few – but it could be onto a winner.

Following Qatar’s successful bid for the 2022 Olympics, it has been estimated that infrastructure spending could rocket to around $100bn, which adds up to a lot of potential construction disputes. This surely must have factored into the firm’s thinking.

Either that or partners at Fenwick Elliott thought that a new office would mean they’d stand a better chance of getting their hand on a World Cup ticket. Cunning.

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