Hogan & Hartson is to launch in Abu Dhabi next month – the firm’s first-ever office in the Middle East.
The Washington DC-headquartered firm will be sending Ray Batla, a partner in the London office, out to the United Arab Emirates to set up the office on 1 August.
Batla told The Lawyer that having a permanent presence on the ground would be vital to holding on to clients from the region:
“It has become a condition of doing business there. The authorities have indicated that they favour law firms that have an office there, even if the project is in Asia, Europe or the US.”
The firm chose Abu Dhabi above rival Gulf locations such as Dubai and Doha because the city is aligned with the firm’s practice strengths, Batla said.
“Our real strength is at the intersection of business and government. Abu Dhabi is the federal capital of the United Arab Emirates and the centre of government.”
He added: “There are a number of areas – such as construction, projects and out-bound investment – that are in rapid development and it seemed a better fit than any other [regional] locations we looked at.”
Batla will be joined by two other partners and two associates relocated from within the firm’s existing network.
He said that he expects the total office headcount to grow to around 15 by the middle of next year, including support staff.