Gide Loyrette Nouel has announced that it will shut five offices across Eastern Europe and the Gulf as part of its global strategic review.
The firm will close all three of its Middle East offices – in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Riyadh – with immediate effect, and will close its Prague office before the end of the year. The French firm’s Belgrade office will also gradually wind down over the next 12 months, its operations merged with other offices in the area.
The firm will continue to work in the Middle East through best friends and the Lex Mundi network. In central and eastern Europe Gide will focus on Budapest and Bucharest and will continue to work closely with the offices and lawyers departing the firm.
“The philosophy behind opening new offices has always been to move into emerging markets with a civil law background, where clients want us to be, and where there is a sufficient market for us to expand and where we felt we could add value and bring the Gide touch,” said Gide senior partner Pierre Raoul-Duval. “Essentially, to try our best to become the kind of firm that we are in France.”
Raoul-Duval added that to achieve its ambition it needed to hire people from local jurisdictions and make the firm more attractive to young lawyers.
“Once you pass the wave of initial foreign investment, it is nationals that push forward the development of the country and so we have to be able to offer young lawyers the chance to make partner,” Raoul-Duval said.
According to Raoul-Duval the five offices being axed could no longer meet that criteria and Gide could not guarantee their success in the long term.
“Dubai is shrinking dramatically so whatever remains of work in construction and, in some cases project finance, would naturally go to those English firms that have been there for ages,” he argued. “The return of investment there was unsure, and we weren’t sure we could offer young lawyers a future. Prague is extremely competitive, it’s the place in central and eastern Europe with the most competition and though there are many companies there it can be extremely difficult to get work. Staying there would have meant a vast investment – it was a question of allocation of resources.”
In Belgrade it was decided that the operations could be run from Gide’s Budapest office, which will serve as a hub for the region.
Gide has had a presence in the Middle East since 1978 when it opened its Riyadh office in response to the second oil crisis. In Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Riyadh the firm had respectively five, four and three lawyers. In Prague and Belgrade the firm has 10 and nine lawyers respectively.
But the firm is hiring in other jurisdictions and expects its overall fee-earner numbers to remain at around 700. After the office closures, the firm will have 19 offices.