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CC formally launches ‘first-of-its-kind’ Saudi partnership but Riyadh remains a tough nut to crack

Clifford Chance today (6 January) formally announced the launch of its joint Saudi and foreign-owned law firm in Riyadh, boasting an institutionalised career path for Saudi lawyers as it becomes the first international firm to establish an integrated partnership in the Kingdom.

The transactional lawyers of Al-Jadaan & Partners, Khalid Al-Abdulkareem and Abdulaziz Al-Abduljabbar, join Clifford Chance as partners to create a five-partner team alongside English lawyers Omar Rashid, Paul Latto and office head Tim Plews.

Clifford Chance has been in partnership with Al-Jadaan since 1998 and will maintain its co-operation with the firm, with managing partner Mohammed Al-Jadaan continuing as a special adviser to the Magic Circle firm.

The re-launched office, which opened its doors on 1 January, brings the total number of permanent Saudi and foreign lawyers to 30, with 20 support staff. Fifty percent of the lawyers in Riyadh are Saudi nationals.

The development, first announced in March last year, is said to be the next step in the evolution of the 3017-lawyer firm’s long term connection with Saudi Arabia and part of its broader strategy for ambitious growth across the Middle East and Africa, with the last three years seeing office launches in Doha, Casablanca and Istanbul.

In terms of building its local brand, the move has enabled the already top-tier practice to boast that this first-of-a-kind partnership reinforces Clifford Chance’s commitment to Saudi Arabia, creating new employment opportunities for Saudi nationals.

Mohammed Al-Jadaan, who together with partners Yousef Al-Jadaan and Abdullah Al-Hashim, will now focus on litigation, mediation, legal strategies and structuring related advice, said: ‘This development is great news for the Saudi legal market and its young talent who will now have the opportunity to train with and develop their careers in one of the world’s leading international firms, ensuring they benefit from an institutionalised career path. I am confident that the service offering of the team in Saudi will reach new heights now that it has the absolute commitment of Clifford Chance.’

Clifford Chance outgoing managing partner, David Childs added: ‘Ambitious domestic organisations, such as those we advise in Saudi, as well as our multinational clients want us to be able to provide this combination of deep local expertise and broad-reaching international experience.

‘I am therefore delighted that we are now operating a joint Saudi and international owned partnership and that we will be the first international firm to offer young Saudis the opportunity to develop their careers with us.’

As newer entrants continue to be tantalised by Saudi’s wealth and transactional opportunities Clifford Chance has ratcheted up an enviable corporate and finance deal book, including last year advising Almarai Company on its US$250 million bid to acquire Saudi Stock Exchange-listed Hail Agriculture Development Company – the first takeover bid for a listed company in Saudi.

But while Saudi’s legal market takes steps towards increased liberalisation – last week saw one of the first female law firms launched in Saudi by Bayan Mahmoud Al-Zahran, after regulation was relaxed last year enabling women to gain a license to practise –  international law firms continue to find Riyadh a tough market to crack, with Herbert Smith Freehills last April announcing that its exclusive association with Saudi Arabian firm Al-Ghazzawi Professional Association would come to an end in August.

Legal Business