Baker Botts opens in Riyadh with two Arent Fox partners

Arent Fox closes Saudi Arabia office; Baker Botts swoops for partners

Baker Botts has taken on two partners from Washington DC firm Arent Fox Kintner Plotkin & Kahn, which is closing its Saudi Arabia office.

Houston-based 300-partner firm Baker Botts is setting up a Riyadh office with the two Arent Fox partners to bolster its already strong Middle Eastern presence. It formed an alliance with Afridi & Angell last June, which allows access to Dubai and Pakistan as Afridi’s practice covers the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.

Arent Fox’s office in Riyadh was originally set up by long-serving partner Steven Miles more than 10 years ago. Partner Stephen Matthews, who splits his time between Washington and Riyadh, joined him later. Baker Botts’ new office includes a Saudi-qualified lawyer.

Baker Botts managing partner Richard Johnson confirmed that Matthews had approached the firm’s head of energy projects Joel Swanson at an energy conference in New York on 15 November.

Arent Fox was forced to close its office because, according to director of business development Erika Ratner, clients left the region. “We can still serve clients who wish to return from the New York and Washington offices,” she says.

Johnson says: “We represent many Fortune 500 energy clients. The kingdom has opened its doors to Western clients, so we need to have a presence in the region.”

Ratner says that Arent Fox still has an international presence with the Bucharest office, which has two senior associates and nine attorneys.