Shearman strikes rich vein of work in Abu Dhabi

Shearman & Sterling has seen some significant changes of late: the US firm overhauled its management structure last year, electing new practice and office heads; it has made layoffs in the US and UK this year; it also relocated some of its most senior partners to overseas offices.

Creighton Condon

Creighton Condon

But while the firm has seen some major changes, it nevertheless believes that everything is proceeding according to plan.

Since relocating to ­London to become the firm’s European managing partner, has taken the lead in refocusing the firm’s operations on this side of the Atlantic.

Its core focus in recent months has been Abu Dhabi.

“We’ve been in Abu Dhabi for 25 years, so we’ve had time to build a good client base,” says Condon. “We’ve relocated a team to Abu Dhabi and have been able to capitalise on a lot of opportunities out there.”

At the end of last year reported (1 December 2008) that Shearman had embarked on a major expansion of its Middle East practice, ­transferring three partners and seven associates to the office in Abu Dhabi.

London partner James Comyn and Paris-based M&A partner Manuel ­Orillac relocated to Abu Dhabi earlier this year, while London-based property partner Ian Nisse is set to join them in 2010.

The expansion has almost doubled the size of the office, increasing the total number of lawyers from 16 to 30.

“There are discussions to relocate other people to the Middle East,” reveals ­Condon. “But nothing’s been decided as yet. It’s definitely been a great area for us to focus on and has been lucrative in recent months.”

Investment in Abu Dhabi has clearly been money well spent. Last week the firm announced its role advising Abu Dhabi National Oil Company on its $10bn (£6.09bn) joint venture with ConocoPhillips. Abu Dhabi-based partner Matthew ­Kidwell led a team from the US firm advising on the deal, which will develop the Shah gas field in the United Arab Emirates.

Shearman has spotted a solid area of activity in the Middle East during the downturn and is capitalising on its foresightedness.