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Clifford Chance makes Saudi Arabia move

Posted by: Laurence Simons 08/03/13

International law firm Clifford Chance has become the first company of its kind to set up a mixed local and foreign lawyer partnership in Saudi Arabia, breaking new ground and potentially securing its position in what could turn out to be a highly lucrative market.

The largest Arab state in Western Asia and one of the world's wealthiest nations, Saudi Arabia is rich in natural resources and one of the few countries that is still experiencing a rapid period of economic growth and industrialisation in the current climate.

Clifford Chance's move will allow its private practice lawyers to get involved in business law across the country, a financially astute move, but could also have benefits for Saudi lawyers hoping to make the move into international law, reports Legal Week.

It has been allied with the Al-Jadaan firm since 1998, but will now integrate its corporate, finance and capital markets practices in the region.

Al-Jadaan partners Abdulaziz Al-Abduljabbar and Khalid Al-Abdulkareem will become partners at Clifford Chance, with a number of staff also transferring to the prestigous magic circle firm.

Lest anyone start muttering darkly about TE Lawrence or Edward Said, it is clear that both parties are expecting to benefit from this enhanced relationship between the two firms.

Mohammed Al-Jadaan said: "This development is also great news for Saudi legal talent who will now have the opportunity to train with and develop their careers in one of the world's leading international firms, ensuring they benefit from an institutionalised career path."

While it may not have the global clout of Clifford Chance, the Al-Jadaan practice is no slouch, and is known as one of Saudi Arabia's largest and most impressive firms. Founded in 1996, it now has over 40 employees, including 21 lawyers working out of Riyadh.

Middle East head of financial services for Clifford Chance Tim Plews explained: "It was important to the firm to elect Saudi lawyers to the partnership for the first time - we realised that Saudi was an important country to have a permanent practice in."

Their longstanding partnership with Al-Jadaan may have helped them to get a jump on their counterparts, who will also be keen to expand into such a fast-expanding region.

Clifford Chance has previously shown itself to be quick to engage with the emerging market, and launched three offices across the Middle East and North Africa in the last two years.