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Lovells is poised to move into Saudi Arabia after spending several months attempting to ink a deal.
As reported on The Lawyer.com (5 February) the firm has been looking to expand its Middle East footprint beyond its sole regional office in Dubai and into what is the region’s largest economy.
The Lawyer understands that two of the firm’s Dubai-based lawyers, of counsel Imran Mufti and associate Mustafa Kamal, will spearhead the Saudi initiative. It is thought that the firm incentivised Mufti with the promise of a fast track to partnership.
A source at a Saudi firm that held aborted talks with Lovells was sceptical about the endurance of tie-ups with local firms. International firms require a locally qualified Saudi national to act as a sponsor in order to practise in the kingdom.
“Does Lovells have an anchor client or has it decided that unless it expands out of Dubai it will die? Every international law firm [that comes into Saudi] has severed their links over time,” explained the source. “In some ways these are shotgun marriages. It’s questionable whether Lovells’ arrangement is going to survive here.”