K&L Gates has hired the former head of Ashurst’s Dubai office as it prepares to open its first office in the Middle East.

Middle East

Partner Paul de Cordova has joined the firm’s Dubai office, which is set to open its doors today (1 June).

As part of the launch Pittsburgh-based litigation partner Neal Brendel and London corporate associate Richard Dollimore will relocate to Dubai.

The new office will initially focus on corporate work, with the lawyers on the ground also looking to develop an international arbitration practice in the jurisdiction.

Brendel said: “It’s a good opportunity to add to our successful arbitration practice. An arbitration court has recently been established in the Dubai International Financial Centre and we think this is an interesting area to expand into given our expertise.”

He added that K&L Gates believes that arbitration will be a key driving force of growth.

“Dubai is a good link between Asia and London,” he said. “The firm has good arbitration capabilities in both regions.”

K&L Gates plans to grow the Dubai office gradually by transferring partners and associates from across its international network.

The Middle East launch is the latest signal of K&L Gates’ appetite for international expansion. In March The Lawyer revealed that the US firm had launched its fifth Asian office by setting up shop in Singapore (2 March).

The Singapore launch came just weeks after the firm hired a two-partner team from Simmons & Simmons to launch in Frankfurt (TheLawyer.com, 15 January).

Brendel said: “From a lateral hiring perspective we’ve been carefully hiring into key areas such as arbitration and crucial jurisdictions to help develop our international network.”

Dubai will be the firm’s 33rd office worldwide and third office launch this year.

While the downturn has not stopped K&L Gates pursuing its expansionist strategy, the firm has had to make sacrifices. Earlier this year The Lawyer reported that it has shed a total of 42 associates and 79 support staff due to the pressures of the economic downturn (TheLawyer.com, 9 March).

The cuts represented the loss of 4.9 per cent of the firm’s associates and 4.3 per cent of its staff.

Despite this, expansion is still a priority for the firm. As well as developing its network outside of the US, K&L Gates merged with Chicago-headquartered firm Bell Boyd & Lloyd in March this year.

In summer 2008 the firm joined forces with Carolina-headquartered firm Kennedy Covington Lobdell & Hickman.

Funding international expansion entirely through partner capital, the firm has ensured that it remains debt-free.

A US partner said: “It’s an interesting model. No debt puts the firm in an exceptionally healthy position. It’s completed so many acquisitions and office launches in recent years. It’ll be interesting to see how it actually integrates them. It’s a very different firm now to before the downturn.”