Latham’s Voge admits launch “market intelligence” was wrong as firm closes Doha, Abu Dhabi

Latham & Watkins is set to close its Doha office and consolidate its Abu Dhabi and Dubai offices seven years after launching in the region. 

The firm today confirmed its intention to close its Doha office by 30 June. It also plans to merge the Abu Dhabi and Dubai teams by the end of the year.

Latham confirmed that the restructuring would not affect its Saudi Arabia office in Riyadh, led by office managing partner Salman Al-Sudairi. The news was announced to partners earlier today.

Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai managing partner Villiers Terblanche is expected to be the managing partner of the Dubai office after the consolidation. 

Latham launched its three offices in Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi simultaneously in 2008. Two years later it opened its doors in Riyadh with a raid on White & Case (1 February 2010).

Latham chair Bill Voge said: ”We opened in those four cities because our market intelligence from 2007 was that there were four separate and distinct legal markets. Over the last years we have come to realise that there is a regional market.” 

So why did it take the firm seven years to consolidate?

“I think it probably didn’t take us seven years, but a couple of years ago we started realising it,” Voge said. ”When we originally opened up we were confident that we had distinct markets”

The firm’s lawyers were travelling between offices and clients didn’t discern its advisers by office. The final decision, Voge explained, was taken after talking to clients in the region six weeks ago.

Despite losing two offices, Voge maintained that the firm was not performing a cost-cutting exercise.

”I think the cost savings will be minimal,” insisted Voge. ”If you look at the highest cost of operating, our lawyers are staying the same. Even though we are reducing our real estate, this was not made on a cost-savings standpoint.” 

The firm’s motivation was ”the value of having people in a central location”, Voge said.

”If we didn’t see Riyadh and Saudi Arabia as distinctly different markets, we would probably be consolidating those too,” added Voge.

Last year, Latham worked on a series of Middle East deals, including the National Commercial Bank IPO (27 October 2014) and advising Saudi Electric Company’s issuance of an international sukuk (15 April 2014).

The 35 Latham lawyers based in the Middle East will be invited to join the firm’s Dubai office and are expected to relocate. The firm said it did not expect a reduction in the number of lawyers in the region, or for the office closures to negatively impact its strategy in the Middle East.