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02 September 2020

Crowell & Moring signals Middle East launch as it takes on Squire's Doha arm

Washington DC-based firm extends reach of infrastructure business as rival channels regional investment elsewhere

Doha skyline

Doha: a number of international firms have quit Qatar HasanZaidi; Shutterstock

Crowell & Moring is to launch in the Middle East with an infrastructure practice after taking on Squire Patton Boggs’ Doha office.

The move sees Crowell take on 13 lawyers: nine in Qatar and four in Washington. For its part, Squire released a statement today in which it said it had decided to close the office and instead channel its investment into its other Middle East bases in in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. 

Crowell's new team includes Washington DC-based partners Robert Hager, Michael Guiffré and Meagan Bachman; and Charbel Maakaron, who will head up the Doha office.

The team’s flagship project has been representing the Qatar government for 15 years on the development of the Hamad International Airport, one of the largest airport and infrastructure projects in the world. 

It boasts transactional, regulatory and litigation experience and is led by Hager, who headed up Squire’s Doha office from 2006-2012.

Philip Inglima, chair of the Washington DC-based firm, said: “We see Qatar as a strong market for one of our strategic growth priorities, which is the expansion of our global infrastructure practice, building on the strengths of our government contracts, international dispute resolution, project development, and regulatory experience.”

The hires follow on from the recruitment by Crowell of six partners from Squire in London last year, including office managing partner Robert Weekes, who said:  “The entire London office looks forward to working closely with this impressive team on a range of projects for clients, from complex litigation and arbitration matters to corporate transactions and project finance.”

The firm's international network also includes Brussels, while its consulting arm, C&M International, has an international presence in Shanghai and Singapore, where it opened earlier this year.

Explaining Squire's decision to pull out of Qatar, chairman and global CEO Mark Ruehlmann said: “As we assessed our long-term position in the region, it became increasingly clear that our presence in Doha was not core to our strategy.”

He added: “We have a fantastic group of people in our Doha office, and we wish them the very best in their future endeavours and thank them for their many contributions to the firm.”

In January, the firm took on three partners plus their teams from Winston & Strawn’s Dubai office following Winston’s decision to end its on-the-ground presence in the Middle East.

Other firms to have quit Qatar over the past three years include Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith Freehills and Allen & Overy.

The enticing prospect of it hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022 has been counterbalanced by its involvement in a series of legal and diplomatic disputes with its regional neighbours over its foreign policy. 

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