Church (pictured) launched the firm’s Middle East presence with a Dubai office in 2006. He is expected to move back to the UK during the middle of next year and will continue in the role of international development partner, a position he has occupied since the 2005 transatlantic merger of DLA, Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich and Piper Rudnick.
Church will continue to deal with the Middle East as part of a remit that includes growing the business in Africa and Asia.
He commented: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time as managing partner of the Middle East. I’m delighted that I’ve been able to hand over to such a great successor. It was always planned that I’d be moving back to the UK after about four to five years.”
In his time as regional head, Church has overseen rapid expansion in the Midle East. The firm now has seven offices across the Gulf Cooperation Council and hundreds of employees.
However, it has also been a turbulent time with the firm making two rounds of redundancies partner departures and the collapse of alliances in Saudi Arabia (18 June 2009).
Church’s replacement Al-Yaqout, a Kuwaiti national, has risen quickly up the ranks at the firm. The 36-year old partner joined DLA Piper’s Cologne office in 2004 before he moved back to the region to replace Alex Saleh as head of the Kuwait office (29 June 2009).
A month later Al-Yaqout was made a member of the international LLP board (10 August 2009).
Al-Yaqout said: “It’s an honour to be asked to lead the Middle East practice.
“I know the market in 2009 has made life difficult for law firms following the substantial influx of lawyers in 2008. There’ll be a period of adjustment, but I share DLA Piper’s vision for the region and am pleased to have responsibility for a market that has such strategic importance for the wider business.
“I look forward to working closely with my colleagues in the region.
Joint CEO Sir Nigel Knowles said: “We’re pleased that Aziz has taken up this appointment.
“Although market conditions in 2009 have been very challenging in the region, we see the Middle East as having long-term strategic importance for DLA Piper and believe that Aziz will provide the leadership required for us to achieve our objectives.”
He added: “We thank David Church for his contribution to our business in the region and look forward to working with him in his role as international development partner.”