Clifford Chance trades standalone Saudi Arabia office for an association

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Clifford Chance’s decision to shutter its standalone office in Saudi Arabia in favour of a new partnership with just-established firm Abuhumed Alsheikh Alhagbani Law Firm (AS&H) is a strategic business decision.
According to a Bloomberg Law report, a spokeswoman for the Magic Circle law firm said that the “real impetus” for the move was to “broaden the firm’s services in Saudi Arabia to meet client demand”.
Spokeswoman Claire Gosnell specifically identified a 10-year program of the Saudi Arabian government to overhaul its public transportation infrastructure with projects worth at least $140 billion.
“It’s quite a dynamic time in the region,” Gosnell told Big Law Business.
The fact that Clifford Chance’s license to operate its own partnership in the Gulf kingdom is being called into question may have also contributed to the decision to just form an association, the publication also hinted.
Clifford Chance, which was granted a license by the government in 2013, established its partnership in Saudi Arabia in 2014. The first international law firm to do so, the firm opened the office with a 30-lawyer team that included five partners.
Local courts have put up resistance to the license to operate since then and a Saudi lawyer has appealed the legality of the license, Bloomberg noted.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the international law firm told Bloomberg that staff who worked in the firm’s Saudi Arabia office need not fear for their jobs.
“The Saudi lawyers and Business Services staff will transition to AS&H while our foreign lawyers will remain employees of Clifford Chance and be seconded to AS&H,” spokeswoman Sonia Malhotra is quoted saying in an email.