Richards Butler is first in Pakistan

Richard Butler is to become the first foreign firm to open an office in Pakistan. The Islamabad-based office, specialising in banking, privatisation and project finance will be open by the end of February. The firm hopes to open at least one other in Qatar, Dubai or Azerbaijan.

London partner Peter Michelmore is being sent out to the firm's existing Abu Dhabi office as regional operation manager for the Middle East and South West Asia. Alongside the office head Anthony Trew, he will co-ordinate the setting up of other offices.

He said he aimed to double the firm's number of lawyers in the area to 15 by the end of the year. There are currently a handful of lawyers in the Abu Dhabi office and one full-time in the Oman office of local associated firm Said Al-Shahry.

Michelmore said the firm was seeking to open one office in the Gulf at the request of a client. But he said the decision to invest in the area reflected increased interest from foreign investors there, since the South East financial crisis.

Last October Clifford Chance closed its Bahrain office to concentrate its work from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, saying that Bahrain was over-lawyered.