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Norton Rose Fulbright facing Dubai staffing crisis

Posted by: Laurence Simons 11/06/13

The merger of Norton Rose Fulbright was hailed as an exciting move in the legal market, as the American and UK-based firms joined together to form a potential challenger to the established Magic Circle organisations that dominate the top end of the market.

However, like an unexpected alliance in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), the move has been fraught with uncertainty and potential pitfalls, with the most recent concern being that the new company's Dubai team could be set to jump ship in a mass move to a rival firm.

Senior figures at the combined company - understood to include UK LLP deputy managing partner Tim Marsden and global co-chair Stephen Parish - have been travelling to the Middle East in recent weeks to hold talks with the malcontents in a bid to persuade them to stay, reports the Lawyer magazine.

The major concern of the potential defectors appears to be an unwillingness to join the merged firm, which launched under its new branding earlier this month.

Given the importance of Dubai as a global business hub and a relatively healthy economy in straitened times, losing an experienced selection of staff members could prove a huge blow for the newly-formed company.

A source close to the Festival City team told the Lawyer: "There are a number of people in the locations where there is overlap [and both legacy firms had offices] who are not happy about the Norton Rose situation. There has been a lot of time expended with people jumping on planes to shore things up."

The company declined to comment other than to say there had been no emergency meetings relating to Dubai, and to confirm that no partners have handed in their resignation in recent weeks.

Its transatlantic merger created a global top ten firm with around 3,800 lawyers, with reports suggesting the company will strive to expand into the emergent economies of Africa and beyond.