Lovells' Dubai head, banking and project finance partner Shibeer Ahmed, is to leave the top 10 firm at the end of April after more than nine years.
In response, the firm is parachuting in London-based corporate partner Nick Parden, who will co-head the Dubai office alongside the firm's global head of Islamic finance Rahail Ali.
Ahmed refused to comment on where he is moving to, but confirmed that he will be pursuing other opportunities at another firm in Dubai and that his new role would "most probably" involve running an office. He described his departure as "amicable and ordered".
Ahmed added that he would not be taking a team with him to his new role. "It would not be the correct thing to do", he said. "I still have a very good relationship with Lovells and there's still a lot of trust in me."
Dubai is Lovells' only Middle East office at present, but the firm is in discussions regarding forming a joint venture in Riyadh, sources close to the firm said.
Senior partner John Young declined to comment on the matter, adding: "We have no firm plans at the moment, but cannot comment on what we might do in the future."
He added: "Riyadh is clearly a very exciting place at the moment, we're looking at a number of places. It's difficult to compare Riyadh and Dubai directly, but there's likely to be a separate role for the two jurisdictions in the future".
While the global economic downturn is starting to affect Dubai, Ahmed said that Lovells' Dubai office is still recruiting into litigation arbitration and real estate in that jurisdiction.
Lovells opened its Dubai office in 2007 with a trio of Islamic finance hires from Denton Wilde Sapte (5 February 2007).