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Herbert Smith Freehills shuts Abu Dhabi office as firm consolidates Middle East presence

Reduced to just one partner in Abu Dhabi, Herbert Smith Freehills is shutting the office and shifting its five-lawyer team to Dubai just six years after opening.

Having launched the office in 2008 amid the sharp crash in the Middle East real estate market, HSF will reduce its presence in the region to a two-partner office in Doha and an eight-partner team in Dubai.

HSF’s Abu Dhabi office has waned in recent years with Islamic finance specialist Adil Hussain departing to join Clyde & Co’s local office late last year, real estate partner Nick Turner returning to London and office managing partner Andrew Newbery resigning in 2013 to pursue a corporate career in the UK. The last remaining Abu Dhabi partner, projects specialist Alexander Currie, will carry the five-lawyer team over to Dubai.

Dubai-based corporate finance partner Zubair Mir will continue as Middle East managing partner. Mir told Legal Business: ‘We opened the office at a time you needed a presence on the ground to get work from government and private sector clients. That’s changed considerably and our major clients, particularly sovereign wealth funds, will instruct the best law firms wherever they’re based.’

‘We’ve had the office under review for a while now and the Middle East partners, together with our executive, review it on an annual basis as it’s a market you have to make sure you can service.’

The decision follows the closure of Latham & Watkins’ Doha office, with management asking staff to relocate to Dubai.

For more on the differing approaches being taken to servicing the region see: The Middle East: After the gold rush