Baker Botts raids Norton Rose Fulbright for eight-partner team

Baker Botts has hired a large chunk of Norton Rose Fulbright’s Middle East operations, amid a rift between the post-merger firms legacy UK and US arms.

The departing team consists of 14 lawyers and eight partners as well as a significant number of support staff from Norton Rose Fulbright’s Dubai and Riyadh offices. The team includes partner John Lonsberg who established Fulbright & Jaworski’s presence in the Middle East when he joined Fulbright in 2005. 

Norton Rose Fulbright’s Dubai practice works out of two offices in Dubai International Financial Centre and Festival City – legacy Norton Rose partners reside in the former, and Fulbright in the other. The exit of seven former Fulbright partners from the Festival City base leaves only one partner from the legacy firm in the office, Dubai and Riyadh head John Boehm. 

As The Lawyer reported last month (10 June 2013), there had been a period of discontent among Fulbright partners in the region, for reasons including culture and profitability.

The eight departing partners are Mark Bisch, Jonathan Sutcliffe, Joseph Colagiovanni, Hassan Elsayed, Richard Devine and Philip Punwar in Dubai, and Sam Eversman in Riyadh. They will be based across the Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Riyadh offices.

Lonsberg said in a statement: “Andy Baker and I worked on a significant M&A transaction in the 1990s and kept in touch over the years. As I watched Baker Botts grow into the firm it is today, when the time was right for my team to seek something new, I called Andy and renewed the friendship.”

Baker Botts’ Middle East head Robert Jordan said: “The Middle East is a key market for us, and we have as many offices in the region as we do in Texas. Our practice will continue to grow, with a focus on Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as well as our affiliation in Kuwait and rapidly expanding markets in Iraq and throughout the Gulf. This group blends well with our worldwide strengths in energy, infrastructure, corporate and dispute resolution.”

Norton Rose responded: “Our combination to become Norton Rose Fulbright has made us a truly global legal organization, capable of providing seamless and superior client service anywhere our clients do business. While our combined firms are highly complementary, any combination of organizations brings inevitable changes in leadership and responsibilities and some overlap, and we understand that not all individuals will embrace those changes.”  

It added: “We wish our former partners in the Middle East our best.”