US firm Squire Sanders & Dempsey is launching a full-scale operation in the Middle East, following the successful establishment of an affiliation with Kuwaiti firm MM Al Ghazali & Partners.
The firm plans to launch three offices, starting in Saudi Arabia next month followed by further offices in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar.
Squire Sanders plans to exploit the Kuwaiti firm's involvement in Iraqi reconstruction work. The link-up is being coordinated by Joseph Markowski, head of Squire Sanders' regulatory practice and a veteran of reconstruction work in Eastern Europe.
Squires inherited Ghazali as a business partner when it took over former US firm Graham & James, which had formerly had association offices in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Graham & James had considerably wound down its Middle Eastern business when Squire Sanders took over the practice.
Markowski said: "We're very active in Saudi Arabia and we've been working with a firm for some time, particularly in healthcare, financing and telecoms. The UAE and Qatar office projects are further down the road.
"One of the ideas behind the Kuwait office is to explore the whole Gulf region, which is essentially a tightly knit community of interests," he added.
He described the Kuwait office as "a stepping stone into Iraq". The firm is currently in talks with the UK and US military in relation to representing them on projects in Iraq, and is also representing three companies with contracts to rebuild Iraq.
Markowski recently had meetings with construction company Bechtel, with the possibility of acting for companies it is due to be engaged with in Iraq joint ventures. He also expects to act in the setting up of a financial institution representing the interests of small and medium-sized businesses.