United Arab Emirates (UAE) firm Hadef Al Dhahiri & Associates, which has rebranded as Hadef & Partners, has laid off six corporate finance lawyers as it bids to reposition itself during the downturn.

Sadiq Jafar

Sadiq Jafar

The cuts were made over the past six months with the firm also looking to relocate various lawyers between its Abu Dhabi and Dubai offices.

Hadef Dubai managing partner Sadiq Jafar said: “We’ve restructured in various practice groups. For example, some people have moved to our Abu Dhabi office, which at the moment is much more dynamic. This is mainly in the banking and finance team.”

He added that the firm has hired 12 new lawyers over the past six months.

Jafar added that, while the firm has traditionally been known as a local Middle East firm, the rebrand has been designed to make it more recognisable to an international audience.

Pointing out that Hadef wanted to make sure the firm’s name is easier for international clients and lawyers to pronounce, Jafar added: “We’ve been ­growing steadily since launching in 1980 and have come a long way. It’s part of the firm modernising and rejuvenating itself for the future.”

Hadef is not the only firm that has reassessed its capabilities in the UAE after the onset of the credit crisis. International firms have been actively restructuring their teams and redeploying lawyers in recent months.

Earlier this year The Lawyer reported that DLA Piper had cut 8 per cent of its fee-earners (3 April), while Trowers & Hamlins was the first international firm to make layoffs in the Middle East, shedding a total of seven, including six lawyers. The bulk of ­Trowers’ cuts were in the project finance practice group (The Lawyer, 23 February).

It is understood that US firm King & Spalding has made a number of associates in its Dubai office redundant.

While many firms are reducing lawyer numbers in the Middle East, Jafar insists that Hadef is still in growth mode.

He said: “We expect to see growth in our dispute ­resolution group, financial regulation and restructuring. These are areas that are now very important for clients.”

Hadef’s optimism is echoed by other international firms. Clifford Chance has relocated a funds team to its Dubai office. The firm relocated partner Nigel Clark, associate Charlotte Douglass and a junior associate to the Middle East office last year (The Lawyer, 21 July 2008).

Latham & Watkins has also shifted partners around its network with several landing in the firm’s Middle East offices.

After launching three offices simultaneously in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar last year, the firm relocated London-based partner Bryant Edwards to Dubai to head up the three offices in the region (The Lawyer, 1 December 2008).

Like Hadef, Latham is confident about the future. Managing partner Bob Dell told The Lawyer earlier this year that the firm launched in the Middle East to take advantage of growing opportunities in the region. Latham had not been disappointed by its move to launch three offices at the same time, Dell added.