Latham & Watkins has internally announced today (18 March) that it will close two offices in the Middle East by the end of the year, shutting down its outposts in Abu Dhabi and Doha, and relocating staff to its Dubai operation.
The closures come seven years after the firm launched in the Middle East with offices in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha, Qatar. Latham plans to wind down its Doha office by 30 June 2015 and its Abu Dhabi office by the end of the year.
The news was announced in those offices this afternoon, with the 11 lawyers based in Abu Dhabi and Doha asked to relocate to Dubai, which the firm hopes to turn into a hub for its work in the Middle East.
Currently 35 lawyers are operating in the region for the firm but a management team set up to review the firm’s strategy in the Middle East concluded that the firm’s offering could be run out of offices in Dubai and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The firm has also held talks with over 12 major clients in the last fortnight to ensure the closures would not impact on its business in the region
Villiers Terblanche, the managing partner of the firm’s Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha offices, was part of the team running the review and will remain managing partner of the enlarged Dubai office. The firm’s office in Riyadh, which opened in 2010 though an association with the Law Office of Mohammed Al-Sheikh, will not be impacted.
London-based Bill Voge, chair and managing partner at Latham, told Legal Business: ‘I personally had several calls with top clients in the region to explore the effect on our client service and that gave us the comfort that what we’re doing is not disruptive to our clients. They didn’t view having an office in Doha, when our office in Dubai is an hour’s flight away, as critical. Dubai is only 80 miles down the road from Abu Dhabi too. Consolidation makes sense’
Voge added: ‘We won’t have the Abu Dhabi and Doha offices but the same lawyers will be servicing the same clients.’
In a written statement provided to Legal Business, Terblanche, said: ‘We have a broad practice and diverse client base in the Middle East. By consolidating our practice in the region, we will further strengthen our high value corporate, finance and regulatory practices. In the last five years we have seen the legal market develop quite dramatically – our clients across the region use us increasingly regardless of the location of our lawyers and instead on experience, track record and market knowledge.’
For more analysis of Latham’s global strategy see: The firm most likely – can anything halt Latham’s global rise?