08 Sep 2020

CMS bolsters Middle East presence with Abu Dhabi office opening

Sixth Middle East office 'natural next step', bolstering firm's support for Gulf states clients

Abu Dhabi skyline

prochasson frederic; Shutterstock

CMS is to open an office in Abu Dhabi, the sixth such opening in the region, alongside its existing office in Dubai, and its presence in Iraq, Oman, Saudi Arabia, as well as Lebanon.  

David Moore, an infrastructure and project finance partner specialising in the transport sector, will lead the Abu Dhabi office with help from the Dubai team, currently co-managed by John O’Connor and Mark Rocca. 

Moore brings over two decades of experience to the Abu Dhabi office, having advised clients in the UK and internationally on transport infrastructure projects both for private and public sector clients. 

O’Connor said: “We are delighted to be opening an office in Abu Dhabi. This has been an important objective of ours for many years, and will allow us to provide a better, more tailored service to our clients in the capital and across the UAE.” 

The move follows the firm’s success in winning a number of high-profile instructions, including panel positions with leading Abu Dhabi clients Etihad Rail and Aldar Properties Group.

O’Connor added that a presence in Abu Dhabi was a “natural next step” for CMS and hinted that the firm would be looking for opportunities for further growth in the region. 

The firm has expanded its presence in the Middle East and Turkey over the last eighteen months in response to increasing demand, particularly in areas such as fintech and insuretech, alongside traditional industries such as energy, infrastructure, aviation, and transport. 

The firm has also signed an extension of its Dubai office lease in Burj Daman Tower, DIFC, until November 2027, which O’Connor said reconfirmed the firm’s commitment to its Dubai and UAE clients. 

While not releasing immediate plans for staffing the new office, a spokesperson said: “Our regional strategy recognises our Dubai office as the regional hub, where we work as a pooled team across all of our regional offices. 

“We envisage David Moore having close support from the partners and associates in the Dubai office and elsewhere around the region...”

Corporate partner Ben Ewing, Middle East projects head Amir Kordvani and legal director John Geddes, who specialises in oil and gas, are all said by the firm to have worked in Abu Dhabi in recent years.

CMS is not the only firm expanding its presence in the Middle East. Keystone Law rounded out an impressive summer of growth by announcing plans to open its own Abu Dhabi office, with a Dubai office in the pipeline; while in 2019, Morgan Lewis & Bockius opened an Abu Dhabi office with the recruitment of an eight-person team from Squire Patton Boggs.

Elsewhere in the region, last week Squire announced a strategic decision to close its Doha office – with the highly regarded team transferring across to Crowell & Moring

Other firms have been reluctant to expend resources regionally due to concerns regarding oil prices and geopolitical instability; in January 2020, Winston & Strawn closed its Dubai office, ending its on-the-ground presence in the region.