Bird & Bird is to open an office in Abu Dhabi – its first base in the Middle East region.
The firm hopes to be licensed by the end of the summer and will begin by targeting the TMT, healthcare and life sciences, aviation and aerospace, clean technology and energy sectors.
The office will be led by corporate partner Mark Pinder, with assistance from telecoms partner Tim Schwarz and a group of three associates.
Bird & Bird has already begun working for one major client – Abu Dhabi developer Mubadala – on IP-related matters for the planned $22bn (£18.74bn) Masdar sustainable city in the emirate, although this has been dealt with out of its London office.
Pinder explained the rationale behind the move: “The big companies in Abu Dhabi and sovereign wealth funds have made it very clear that they tend not to use advisors unless they have business here.”
He confirmed that there were no plans to open an additional regional office in the next two to three years and that the Abu Dhabi office would initially operate as a hub for the wider region.
“We’ve plenty of contacts in Dubai and Saudi Arabia is an inevitable focus, but [that jurisdiction is] very much restricted and rigid. We’re looking at a whole regional spread,” he said.