White & Case signs up new Saudi sponsor as part of Middle East push

White & Case has moved to rebuild its Middle East practice by agreeing an alliance with Saudi Arabian lawyer Dr Waleed Al-Nuwaiser.

The firm suffered a series of departures from the region earlier this year after it was targeted by US rival Latham & Watkins. Departures included Riyadh office head Mohammed Al-Sheikh, partner Christopher Langdon and Abu Dhabi-based Nick Collins (1 February 2010).

Al-Sheikh, who had been White & Case’s Saudi sponsor, became Latham’s sponsor in April (6 April 2010), prompting questions about the firm’s presence in the region as a local sponsor is a precondition for operating in the kingdom.

According to the firm, the decision to tie up with Dr Waleed Al-Nuwaiser “marks the continuation of the firm’s long-term commitment to Saudi Arabia”.

White & Case chairman Hugh Verrier said the firm “was one of the first to focus on the Saudi market, initially through our relationship with Saudi Aramco, which began in the 1950s and continues to this day”.

Meanwhile,  in Abu Dhabi where the firm lost office head Villiers Terblanche to Latham & Watkins (8 February 2010) the firm has bolstered its ranks with the hire of two senior level partners.

Margaret Cole rejoins the firm after a five-year stint with Babcock & Brown, where she was general counsel in the Asia region. She has been tasked with building up the firm’s restructuring practice in the Middle East.

Also joining is the former head of Lovells’ Dubai practice Shibeer Ahmed, who quit the Hogan Lovells legacy firm last February to join the Dubai office of Baker Botts (29 May 2009). In addition the firm is planning to send four associates to the office.

White & Case Abu Dhabi office head Doug Peel said: “Margaret’s a superbly talented lawyer whose recent restructuring experience will be in high demand while Shibeer’s strong Islamic finance experience gives us this important capability on the ground in the Middle East for the first time.”