28 June 2018

Hogan Lovells seals Saudi alliance after two-year search

Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 and reforming crown prince MBS attracting firms to the kingdom, as Hogan Lovells forges partnership.

After ending an alliance in Saudi Arabia two years ago, Hogan Lovells has entered into an association with Saudi law firm ZS&R Law. The “best friends” agreement will see Hogan Lovells and new firm Riyadh-based ZS&R Law operate in cooperation with each other, expanding Hogan Lovells’ presence in the Middle East.

Dubai connection

The firm opened its only other Middle Eastern operations in Dubai in 2007, with the office now headed by global head of Islamic finance Rahail Ali. ZS&R was founded in 2017 by partners Najem Alzaid, Saad Alrashed and Turki Alsheikh. The three partners will manage operations between the two firms in Dubai, with no Hogan Lovells partners expected to join them. Hogan Lovells previously had an alliance with Saudi firm Al-Yaqoub Attorneys & Legal Advisers, which ended in 2016 after eight years. At the beginning of the month, Mayer Brown announced it was entering into an alliance with Al-Yaqoub, which is so far the firm’s only hub in the Middle East, headed by corporate and commercial partner Tom Thraya. In 2015, Hogan Lovells boosted its Dubai office with the hire of three Latham & Watkins partners, corporate duo Charles Fuller and Andrew Tarbuck, as well as finance partner Anthony Pallett, after the US firm announced plans to scale back in the Middle East by shutting down its offices in Abu Dhabi and Doha. Hogan Lovells’ Dubai office now has a headcount of ten partners and 23 lawyers.

Vision 2030 interest

Saudi is of great interest to many international interests following the Saudi Vision 2030 plan and the reforming zeal of crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), in which the Kingdom is looking to diversify the Saudi economy away from oil through economic and social initiatives and reforms. Firms legal and business have been showing interest to establish roots in the region, though it is not the easiest of destinations to operate. In September last year, CMS entered into an exclusive association with Saudi Arabian firm Feras Al Shawaf, pushing its tally of Middle Eastern offices up to nine. A month later, Linklaters transferred over a pair of lawyers, after entering into an agreement with local firm Zamakhchary & Co. Linklaters also has offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. In 2016, Clifford Chance ended its partnership and launched a new association with newly-formed domestic firm Abuhimed Alsheikh Alhagbani. The change in legal status came about following a legal battle concerning the validity of international joint ventures in the region, which was understood to have placed the firm’s office under threat.

GLP Editor-at-Large Dr David Cowan is author of The Coming Economic Implosion of Saudi Arabia: A Behavioral Perspective (Palgrave Macmillan), published last month. Details here.