DLA Piper’s broken Dubai dreams

For many years it seemed that it was impossible not to make bucket loads of money in the Middle East.

Skyscrapers and associate salaries competed to reach dizzy heights and the law firms kept flooding in.

DLA Piper was a relative latecomer to the market, launching in Dubai in 2006. It wanted to be the biggest firm in the region and recruited massively on the back of work with property company Nakheel.

In November 2008 it had its best month of billings ever and that year Middle East turnover reached £21m.

But the bubble soon burst and 2009 was a very different story. Nakheel was shelving projects, fee income for the region fell by 40 per cent and DLA Piper halved its total staff in the region.

The impact of this is felt in DLA Piper’s EMEA results, which were announced today (see story).  Despite income rises in Asia and Europe global turnover was down one per cent and PEP down 18 per cent.

In fact the restructuring costs in the Middle East were so huge that they alone depressed the global PEP by £100,000. And the human cost in terms of redundancies was arguably just as large.

Some streets are not paved with gold.dail

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Still, Dubai is still important enough for Clifford Chance, seeing as it’s about to send its Kraft star Guy Norman out there (see story).