The replacements are...unconvincing.
Norton Rose Fulbright appears to have pinched all but one of Herbert Smith Freehill’s Saudi lawyers as firms scramble to fulfil the Kingdom’s strict requirements.
Until recently, foreign firms wishing to advise on Saudi law could enter into an agreement with local licenced lawyers, which Herbies achieved through an association with The Law Office of Mohammed Altammami (LOMAT).
But sweeping reforms aimed at increasing opportunities and earnings for KSL lawyers took an axe to that structure last year, and firms must now terminate their local agreements no later than May.
Under the new Saudi Code of Law Practice, foreign firms wishing to advise on Saudi law are required to structure their office as a joint venture with local lawyers, who must own at least 25% of the local LLP.
The law also requires that two partners must live in Saudi, and at least 50% of the office's lawyers must be Saudi nationals.
In addition, work related to Saudi law must be done in the Saudi office, and at least 70% of fees generated by the office must stay within the Kingdom.
As well as all that, the foreign firm must submit itself to a prestige test and satisfy the Saudi Ministry of Justice as to its reputation, experience, client base and international profile.
This month HSF became the first foreign firm to pass, alongside Clifford Chance and Latham & Watkins.
However, the achievement has been somewhat tarnished by what appears to be a raid on LOMAT by Norton Rose Fulbright which has left Herbies with just one Saudi lawyer.
The apparent poaching was accidentally revealed by LOMAT lawyer Anwar Ouazzani, who posted on LinkedIn that his firm was now associated with Norton Rose Fulbright, not HSF, before he deleted the reference.
NRF was in need of Saudi lawyers following the termination of its own local association, but it is playing its cards close to its chest.
A Norton Rose Fulbright spokesperson said, "We are committed to serving clients of Norton Rose Fulbright in Saudi Arabia and other areas of the Middle East. With the new regulatory and licensing regime for international law firms in Saudi Arabia, we are considering our options and following guidance from the relevant authorities".
According to HSF’s website, Joza Al-Rasheed is now the only lawyer left in its Riyadh office, which, given the incoming requirement for a minimum of two partners, is a problem the firm is presumably working on.
A source close to HSF management told ROF that its licence was applied for and granted independently of LOMAT, which had mutually agreed with HSF to end the association, and that the firm’s future Riyadh office would comply with local regulations.
In a statement Stuart Paterson, HSF’s managing partner in the Middle East, said, "This region is strategically important to our clients and the firm, so we are very pleased indeed to be one of the first firms to receive a foreign law firm licence in the Kingdom. This enables us to better serve our clients in the region and globally”.
"We also look forward to working with Joza Al-Rasheed, who will be the managing partner of our Riyadh office”, and currently also the only partner. And the only lawyer. Applications welcome.
Good lord - Ishtar. What a movie *goes on the list for later*
Joza came on board way before all of this happened. HSF had a very underwhelming Saudi office. Like other law firms, HSF seems to be cleaning house in Saudi to launch a new more robust offering. If you are in the ME market, you would know that HSF is not rated at all in Saudi. NRF will be average at best in Saudi. LOMAT is a nice bloke, but he is not the same level as Joza. The writing was on the wall and the LOMAT team found a new home with Zubair Mir and NRF.
The tagline to Ishtar is "Two terrible lounge singers get booked to play a gig in a Moroccan hotel but somehow become pawns in an international power play between the C.I.A., the Emir of Ishtar, and the rebels trying to overthrow his regime."
Sounds about right for this story.
Ha, so that's why they told me they didn't have capacity when I asked them for something very small last week.
HSF’s loss is NRF’s loss…
Mr. Mir and NRF have done HSF a huge favour in poaching the LOMAT team....
They should merge all of the lousy firms in Saudi (e.g., NRF, HSF, DFW, HFW, Dentons, Baker Botts) so that they can compete with the big boys so this is a start.
Word is that HSF are not exactly crying themselves to sleep over any of this…
ours is the fury
The reality is that both firms have done very little in Saudi Arabia despite opportunities to grow and develop. They join a number of firms who have shown a lack of commitment to exploit the Saudi market and are sitting on the sidelines doing legal work from abroad without understanding the dynamics on the ground: Hogan Lovells, Squire Patton Boggs, Simmons & Simmons, Mayer Brown, and the list goes on. There is zero expecation from these firms.
Hey Musical chairs,
Please do not forget Hogan Lovells and Mayer Brown as the other lousy firms operating in Saudi
The problem is that the international firms always send their second or third rate people to the Middle East.