Reed Smith Richards Butler has snared the general counsel of Dubai World as part of a strategy to develop its Islamic finance capabilities.

Corporate lawyer Sahia Ahmad was Dubai World’s inaugural general counsel and led the legal efforts on its $3.3bn (£1.81bn) bid for P&O in 2005. The hire is a coup for the firm’s Dubai office, which only opened in September 2006 when local managing partner Sean Angle joined from Trowers & Hamlins.

Angle said: “Ahmad is definitely a big hitter. She’ll be focusing on corporate and commercial and we’ll be drawing on her strength in Islamic finance.”

Reed Smith Abu Dhabi-based partner Julian Turner is charged with leading the firm’s push in Islamic finance, which aims to recruit more associates to the Dubai and Abu Dhabi offices.

Angle said: “Islamic finance is an extremely important area not just in the Middle East, but globally. There are a number of key players in the Middle East and it’s important that we can gain strength in this area of finance.”

In August the firm recruited a team of three associates from Simmons & Simmons for its Abu Dhabi office.

Since then the firm has appointed five associates to the Abu Dhabi and Dubai offices in construction, finance and projects. Ahmad will join the firm at partner level.