Magnet of Middle East attracts top City law firms

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Clifford Chance, the world’s biggest law firm by revenue, opened a new office in Abu Dhabi yesterday with 14 lawyers drawn from offices including London. It expects the office to double in size in the next two years.

Allen & Overy and Herbert Smith have opened offices in the oil-rich emirate in the past year, while others, such as Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Norton Rose, are awaiting regulatory approval to join them.

Abu Dhabi is the latest emirate to become fashionable. Many of the City’s leading law firms already have offices in Dubai and both British and American lawyers have been establishing a presence in Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and even Saudi Arabia.

Graham Lovett, Gulf managing partner at Clifford Chance, said that the rush mirrored that of investment banks and reflected the region’s booming economy.

Although much attention had been focused on the emergence of sovereign wealth funds and the rise of Islamic finance, law firms were advising on a range of areas such as oil and gas, transport, construction and arbitration.

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