Categories:Middle East

Simmons cites market turbulence as it trims Abu Dhabi and Dubai

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  • Simmons has no lawyers in Saudi. The local law firm has some lawyers but Simmons has no lawyers. in the Kingdom. Enough with the games intl law firms when it comes to Saudi.

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  • They should maybe close their UAE offices given how bad they have been performing in the last 5 years!

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  • The problem with Simmons in the ME is that they are floundering with no direction. The only input they have had from London is dumping of unwanted partners.

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  • Simmons has been a sinking ship in the Gulf for some time now, as has Norton Rose, meanwhile Trowers status has steadily been chipped away at through key departures. These three firms have two things in common that have contributed to their recent relative demise:

    Firstly (and obviously), they have all failed to crack the Saudi market.

    Secondly, and perhaps coincidentally, they are pretty much the only firms out here with a regional presence of less than 50-60 lawyers that employ full-time HRDs/COOs - on great salaries no doubt - and give them remits that are strategic rather than purely auxiliary.

    Part of the appeal of lawyering in this region is that you work in a smaller office (i.e. usually <20 fee-earners) and aren't as confined as you would be in the UK. Having such people wafting around, creating unnecessary levels of bureaucracy and generally interfering must take a lot of the "fun" out of it. I wonder if this might have been a factor that prompted people to defect to firms where they could just get on with the work.

    Most medium sized firms out here seem to get by just fine with the partners making the decisions, their PA's/Office Managers handling the ad hoc stuff and the rest being handled by HQ in London, New York, Houston (or Atlanta).

    Sure, if you have a huge number of lawyers, such as Clydes and DLA, a full time local HRD/COO might make sense; but for the small-medium practices it just seems like an avoidable expense.

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  • It is really sad to see people like Natalie Boyd from their Dubai office affected by this.
    As someone in the region who has benefitted from her considerable derivatives expertise we wish to see her at a bigger and better firm soon

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  • Throwing stones from glass houses. Simmons may be the first firm to take decisive action to adapt to the realities on the ground in the UAE in 2012, but it will not be the last. Firms need to focus on where the business is and trim down where there are less opportunities. This is just good business sense and follows what clients in the UAE are doing.

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  • I advise on business strategy and turnaround. Its easy to criticise and pretend you are immune from market pressures. This is good business sense as harsh as it may seem. Everyone knows that the UAE has too many law firms and not enough business at present and the next 12 to 18 months will be very difficult. Some firms have already made cuts and some will be planning to make similar cuts. It's best to trim where there is less need and concentrate on areas of strength and where there are more opportunities going forward.

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  • A very interesting comment is that.

    I always found the layer of bureacracy at Trowers in Dubai to be virtually useless, especially the marketing head who did no marketing. The HR guy was known to be on a junket to top up his pension and couldn't even manage the "redundancies" very well despite the firm having a major clean out every two years.

    I could never understand why these two individuals had their faces on the website under the Dubai office "key contacts" when they were not lawyers.

    The small office model will always struggle in Saudi Arabia unless it has committed lawyers on the ground and solid support from the mother ship. From what I could see, Norton Rose didn't have either, Trowers had a bit of commitment on the ground but no support from London, and Simmons has tried to do Saudi by remote control from Dubai and achieved the odd decent piece of work which has not been consolidated.

    The Saudi market won't miss any of them as everyone knows the firms that are serious about Saudi and they get the good work.

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  • There is a lot of baseless speculation here from people who obviously know very little about Simmons and the current market dynamics. Simmons have been in the UAE for 20 years and Qatar for around10. I have benefitted from their considerable expertise and top quality service. The newer firms do not have the same depth of relationships or market knowledge. As someone said above, "throwing stones from glass houses".

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  • It's not a case of good business; it's a case of real people affected by bad management (and not by HR managers, by partners). Simmons, Norton Rose, Trowers and others have suffered from misjudging a market they all should have known better. They each backed the wrong markets (Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, projects etc) and failed to change because it was convenient for the incumbents not to so and and management in London were too lazy or daft to see it coming.
    Now they are in no state to benefit from the improving market and, indeed, are still going backwards when they should be seeing improved revenue and profit. Instead, the US firms have seen the opportunities are are moving in to replace these failed smaller operations, making even less likely Simmons et al will survive.
    It will be interesting to see whether the US practices can get it right and challenge the hegemony of the likes of Clifford Chance, A & O and Clydes. The US firms have the advantage of strong US ties in Saudi but will find it difficult to crack Dubai, which will reman the business hub of the region well into the forseeable future.

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  • As a regular user of some of the "established" international firms' associated offices in Saudi, I must say that I have been very disappointed on a regular basis. Poor quality, often contradictory advice, lack of responsiveness, lack of commerciality and general complacency. If Simmons provide their usual high quality advice and service in Saudi, they will do very well.

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  • @anonymous 6.23pm
    What a strange comment. The whole point being made above is that Simmons has no presence in Saudi Arabia and therefore can hardly "provide their usual high quality advice and service" in Saudi Arabia.
    Based on what you have said, I very much doubt that you are a regular user of the established big boys in Saudi Arabia and suggest that you actually try one before you get too excited by Saudi law advice given by someone who doesn't live in Saudi Arabia, have daily dealings with Saudi law, or have up to date contacts inside the Kingdom.
    Thanks for playing.

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  • Anonymous | 24-Jan-2012 5:59 pm - you can try hard, but they will still not pay you a bonus this year...

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  • I am in the legal recruitment space and I know a lot of firms in Dubai and Abu Dhabi have quietly been reducing head count recently. Some firms are just more transparent on this than others. The only firms still recruiting are some of the speculative US firms who are newer to the market. Some of the US firms who have been here for longer are also managing people out as they realise the business is not there in certain areas and there is more competition from established firms than they anticipated.

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  • The markets are so unpredictable that firms need to keep their strategies and related resourcing under constant review. Those firms that remain focused locally and work their international networks more effectively and seamlessly across borders, can quickly align their resourcing to support market demand. Those that are complacent and don't take decisive action now to ensure they are focused and aligned may well struggle in the months and years ahead.

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  • I am also a regular user of Saudi firms and can confirm that big does not always mean best. There is a huge disparity in the quality, commerciality and responsiveness of the advice we have received over the years from the so called "big boys". There is definitely room for improvement and competition in this market and some high quality alternatives would help.

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  • I agree with the above comment. For too long the "big boys" have relied on their size and mothership's brand, rather than their own quality. However, times are changing and the clients, even the local ones, are wizening up.

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  • What fantasy land are you living in?

    The "big boys" in Saudi continue to lead the legal market by a long way. If times are changing then which firms are taking major work off Clifford Chance, Baker & McKenzie, Allen & Overy and White & Case.

    Please do give some specific instances and names and don't tell me Simmons & Simmons because they just are not a player in this market.

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  • I am overwhelmed at the response to my last post.

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  • I am not in disagreement, but I will play along for your usual repartee. What about Norton Rose, Dentons, Clydes, Trowers, Eversheds, Fulbrights, Vinsons, Dewey, Freshfields, Baker Botts, Jones Day, King & Spalding? There is no shortage of firms with offices/associations in Saudi.

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