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Abu Dhabi legal market expanding?

Posted by: Laurence Simons 01/08/13

As Dubai continues to expand upwards and outwards like a nightmarish Ballardian dystopia or a heart-warming example of human ingenuity and ambition in the face of the blank desert (depending on your point of view), international law firms are - unsurprisingly - increasingly attracted to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The emirate's biggest city is one of the most expensive urban areas in the world, and its dizzying array of skyscrapers, luxury hotels and shopping malls make it a unique place to do business (as well as a monument to excess and pastiche).

Whatever your feelings about the aesthetics of it though, there's no doubt that the high volume of trading and transactions taking place in the city make it ideal for global law companies.

According to the Lawyer, Morgan Lewis is taking a team from Vinson & Elkins for its launch, while White & Case has secured a licence for the Dubai International Financial Centre. They join a number of other British and American firms that have made the move to the UAE in recent years.

This process has been helped along by the Arab Spring - the uncertainty and violence in other parts of the continent has pushed a great deal of money back into the relative stability of Dubai.

Morgan Lewis international managing partner Charles Engros stressed the city's status as an energy hub.

"Many of the large global oil companies we do work with have a presence there, and for us to service them on transactions that are being run out of the Near East, we needed to be on the ground," he told the news provider.

He added that Dubai's attraction to international businesses means the firm can run a more diverse practice there than it could in many other parts of the Middle or Near East.

And when the civilised world devolves into internecine, factional chaos because of environmental change and political greed, at least those big skyscrapers will offer a fine view.