KWMSJB hires BLP lawyer to launch Middle East real estate group

King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin (KWMSJB) has swiped Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) senior associate Tom Calnan to launch its real estate practice in the Middle East. 

The establishment of the new practice is part of KWMSJB’s continuing drive into the region, following the opening of its associated Riyadh office earlier this week (27 January) (16 December 2013). Calnan will be based in Dubai.

The firm’s senior partner Stephen Kon said in a statement: “Real estate is a core strength of our firm. Its international client base means its development in the Middle East is the next logical step of its growth.” 

He continued: “Tom’s appointment also benefits our wider network as we see the Middle East as a hub through which capital – including Chinese capital – is flowing and positions us best to support our clients.” 

The firm added that it expects to see an uptick in real estate work as a result of Dubai winning the World Expo 2020 bid, in line with increased demand for new hotels and infrastructure projects. 

Calnan has been based in Abu Dhabi since 2009 – initially as part of a five-lawyer team relocated to the region to kick start BLP’s Middle Eastern real estate practice (11 September 2008). 

His new role has seen him move across to KWMSJB’s office in Dubai. He currently holds the of counsel title, but expects to be admitted into the firm’s partnership in its next promotions round, which is due to be announced in the spring.

Calnan has been involved in a number of high-value real estate projects during his time in the region, including advising on the development of a new Premier Inn hotel at Abu Dhabi International Airport. 

Once he has been promoted, Calnan will bring the total number of partners in KWMSJB’s office up to seven. Its Riyadh outpost is currently only home to one partner and one of counsel.  

Meanwhile, BLP’s Abu Dhabi and Dubai offices currently house six partners and two legal directors.