Winston & Strawn is to close its Dubai office, less than four years after launching in the Middle East. The move marks a major strategy shift for the Chicago-based firm, which opened for business in Dubai in April 2016 amid ambitious growth plans.
Three Dubai-based partners – office managing partner Campbell Steedman, fellow corporate partner Christopher Skipper and finance partner Shibeer Ahmed – have joined Squire Patton Boggs’ office in Dubai. They will be followed by a team of associates.
Winston & Strawn, which expects to close the office in the first quarter of 2020, put the move down to its clients’ ‘evolving legal needs’ and said its Middle Eastern practice would be operated by international legal teams operating out of its London, Paris and US offices.
“Our clients are located throughout the Middle East and have cross-border legal needs that reach beyond Dubai – particularly into London, which continues to grow as a significant legal hub for the practice,” said Winston & Strawn chairman Tom Fitzgerald. “This centralisation of resources positions us to more effectively provide our clients with the depth and scope of services their businesses require.”
The firm is the latest of a string of international practices to either close offices in the region or pull out altogether in the face of sluggish markets due to low oil prices and geopolitical uncertainty.
Notably, Weil Gotshal & Manges closed its Dubai office in 2017, while Latham & Watkins pulled out of Abu Dhabi and Doha in 2015 to focus its resources in Dubai, which remains the region’s undisputed legal hub.
However, Squire Patton Boggs, which has regional offices in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Riyadh, described its presence in the Middle East as a ‘critical element’ of its global practice.
Steedman said: “We anticipate a smooth transition and expect to hit the ground running.”