Johansen of Arabia

Last week (7 May) The Lawyer ran a piece on how London-headquartered firms had trouble opening offices in Saudi Arabia. So hats off to Allen & Overy (A&O) for being one of the tiny number of firms to stake a claim in the kingdom. The magic circle firm announced on 11 May that it would be launching in Riyadh through an association with local firm Abdulaziz AlGasim – the only avenue open to foreign firms at the present time.

Last week we suggested that there might be a reluctance among Anglo-Saxon lawyers about the prospect of moving to the country. A&O has been savvy in its choice of partner to launch the office. Perhaps other firms should follow its hiring strategy.

Banking and finance partner Julian Johansen is galloping in to assist with the launch. Johansen is “a real Arabist”, according to A&O managing partner David Morley.

As well as having the requisite credentials in Islamic finance and time as general counsel at Dubai Investment Group, Johansen speaks fluent Arabic. Perhaps tellingly, he’s also a convert to Islam and likes nothing better than riding horses across the dunes, according to personal friends. There is also a passing resemblance to a young Peter O’Toole…