Gibson Dunn opens in Riyadh with team from White & Case

US firm follows up Abu Dhabi launch earlier this year with Saudi Arabia move as it continues to grow rapidly in the Gulf

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher said today that it is opening an office in Riyadh after hiring a team of seven lawyers from rival White & Case, becoming the latest in a procession of law firms to move into Saudi Arabia. 

The new office will be headed by partner Megren Al-Shaalan, who joined Gibson Dunn in July having previously founded and led White & Case’s Saudi associate firm according to his LinkedIn bio. 

Alongside Al-Shaalan, it will house partners Mohammed Bashir, Mahmoud Abdel-Baky, Jonathan Langley, Mohamed AlHasan, Lars Petersen and Ibrahim Soumrany, all of whom were previously partners or local partners at White & Case. 

The launch sees Gibson Dunn continue to expand rapidly in the Gulf, where over the past 12 months it has added 14 new partners and 19 associates, including a team it hired from Shearman & Sterling to open in Abu Dhabi earlier this year

Firm chair and managing partner Barbara Becker commented: “Between the firm’s offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai we have successfully built a market-leading presence in the Gulf. 

“Our new Riyadh office, and the talent joining it, is the next phase of Gibson Dunn’s growth strategy in the region.”

The firm said the new office would offer advice on domestic and international matters relating to administrative law and regulatory issues, public policy, M&A, capital markets, project development and finance, and arbitration.

For his part Al-Shaalan was previously senior legal advisor to the National Committee for Regulatory Development at the Royal Court in Saudi Arabia. 

His practice covers a range of areas including public law and regulatory and legislative matters, and he regularly advises on matters relating to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 programme. Gibson Dunn said he has led in drafting a host of recent legislation and has led on structuring multi-billion dollar projects, as well as restructuring sectors in Saudi Arabia. 

He also advises on corporate matters and M&A transactions and represented Saudi Aramco on its $25.6bn IPO in 2019. 

“I am excited to help build [Gibson Dunn’s] newest office, particularly in light of the immense growth happening in the Kingdom as a result of Vision 2030,” Al-Shaalan said. “Our team, which covers all main practices and has long-standing expertise in the Kingdom, possesses the collective experience to ensure clients are best served when conducting business both locally and internationally.”

Gibson’s Saudi move follows amendments to the Kingdom’s Code of Law Practice that came into effect earlier this year and mean foreign law firms can no longer operate there through an association with a local firm and now need a licence granted by the Saudi Ministry of Justice. 

According to the Law Society of England and Wales, the new law is intended to encourage firms to set up in Saudi Arabia so legal work is engineered within the Kingdom, as well as enable high-profile deals to stay within the country. It also aims to increase opportunities for Saudi lawyers. 

In March, Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith Freehills and Latham & Watkins became the first international law firms to be awarded licences having previously operated in the Kingdom through associations. 

Since then firms including Greenberg Traurig, Addleshaw Goddard, Mishcon de Reya and CMS have announced they were debuting in Saudi Arabia. 

At the end of last month Kirkland & Ellis also announced that it had hired partners from rivals including White & Case to set up shop in Riyadh

White & Case declined to comment on its continuing presence in Saudi Arabia. The firm does not currently have an office there, according to its website.  

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