Split up in Saudi

HSF and Fasken Saudi links run into the sand

The legal market has again cranked out the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ cliché, with both Herbert Smith Freehills and Fasken Martineau ending ties with their local Saudi partners last week.

The former says its break-up with Saudi firm Al-Ghazzawi was down to developing “in ways we could not have foreseen” four years before, the latter because the Canadian firm allegedly “marketed itself outside its co-operation” with Osool Law. In other words, the former grew apart, the latter was caught flirting.

It is all part of what one partner at an international firm on the ground last month called “the dance of the Saudi partners”.

“Generally, with these relationships it comes down to expectations […], how the partnership operates and how revenues are spun off,” added the partner.

Another partner said his experience in the kingdom had led him to question whether the sponsor-firm model is effective.

“If I were a young, aspiring Saudi lawyer it’s not a model I would pursue,” said the partner. “Firms always say their interests are aligned, but it’s still two firms trying to work together and, as much as they try to make it work, it often doesn’t.”

With the parties involved politely puffing out the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ line, insiders suggest the real story at Fasken Martineau was that some of its Saudi clients wanted it to work with other people. Clearly, the course of true business partnership in Saudi Arabia never does run smooth.