Legal Business

Looking east: Linklaters cements Saudi partnership as Hogan Lovells shuts Mongolia base

Two Global 100 firms have made opposing international moves this week, with Linklaters signing a partnership with a local firm in Saudi Arabia while Hogan Lovells announced the closure of its Mongolia base.

Linklaters announced today (11 October) it has entered a formal agreement with 20-lawyer Zamakhchary & Co (Z & Co), meaning two lawyers from the Magic Circle firm will be based in the kingdom.

The announcement comes five years after the two firms started exchanging referrals and working together on cross-border transactions, capital markets, finance and project finance. Four-partner Z & Co has offices in Riyadh and Jeddah.

Linklaters senior associate Omar El Sayed, described by Middle East managing partner Scott Campbell as ‘one of our young superstars’, will relocate from Dubai to work from Z & Co’s offices and lead Linklater’s Saudi operation. A lateral hire, still to be announced, will join El Sayed later this year.

Linklaters currently has 40 lawyers in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, managing the firm’s operations in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Campbell told Legal Business today’s agreement means the Magic Circle firm is ‘formally committing to having people on the ground in the Kingdom in the long term’ with the aim to ‘build a bigger business’.

He connected the expansion of the firm’s operation in the region to the Vision 2030 programme, through which the Kingdom is looking to diversify Saudi economy away from oil through economic and social initiatives and reforms, in the hope of generating $100bn in non-oil revenue by 2020 and develop six million jobs in non-oil sectors by 2030.

‘The modernisation and transformation of an economy brings a lot of advice opportunities in the transactional and corporate finance space,’ added Campbell.

A number of global firms have expanded their presence in the Kingdom since the programme was launched last year.

Last month CMS established a partnership with Riyadh practice Feras Al Shawaf . Clifford Chance announced in August last year that it was entering an association with Abuhimed Alsheikh Alhagbani Law Firm (AS&H), reworking its operation in the region after contention with local authorities over the legality of its Saudi office.

Herbert Smith Freehills  and DLA Piper also have a presence in the Kingdom.

Meanwhile, Hogan Lovells announced it will close its Mongolia office at the end of November after seven years, with local managing partner Chris Melville set to establish a new independent firm in Ulaanbaatar that will co-operate with Hogan Lovells.

Global chief executive Steve Immelt said the decision followed ‘a review of the market and our investment priorities’, adding that Melville had been ‘closely involved in the decision’. The firm has not said how many of the other 14 people employed in Ulaanbaatar will move to the new office.

The announcement means DLA Piper and Dentons are among the very few international firms with a presence in Mongolia.