Greenberg Traurig debuts in Saudi Arabia with former Squire Patton Boggs ally

US firm announces affiliation with Khalid Al-Thebity Law Firm ahead of launching joint venture in the Kingdom

Top 20 US law firm Greenberg Traurig has expanded into Saudi Arabia by forming an affiliation with US rival Squire Patton Boggs' former ally, Khalid Al-Thebity Law Firm, in Riyadh. 

The deal has seen Khalid Al-Thebity Law Firm's founder, Khalid Al-Thebity, join the firm as managing shareholder, with a team of additional shareholders and associates expected to join imminently. 

Greenberg Traurig said it was applying to operate as a joint venture (JV) with the Saudi lawyers under new rules which allow international firms to offer local law advice as long as Saudi partners hold at least 25% of the JV. The office will be its second in the Middle East - it also has a base in Tel Aviv.

Squire said it remained committed to Saudi Arabia and was planning to set up its own JV, having notified Khalid Al-Thebity Law Firm in November that it wanted to terminate the affiliation the two sides had operated for a decade. 

The moves come amid a flurry of international law firm activity in Saudi Arabia as the kingdom seeks to attract law firm investment at the same time as it reforms its practice rules. 

Khalid Al-Thebity Law Firm has been operating in Saudi Arabia for more than 25 years and served as Dewey & LeBoeuf’s Saudi ally before becoming Squire’s affiliate firm in 2012 when Dewey & LeBoeuf collapsed.

The firm advises private, government and quasi-government clients on matters including corporate, finance, project and project finance, PPP, infrastructure, natural resource, real estate, corporate restructurings and legislative and regulatory matters. 

Al-Thebity represents clients on corporate and commercial matters, as well as financial and real estate law. His practice covers Saudi litigation and arbitration cases, including representing the government of Saudi Arabia on several international law matters since 1996, and he also advises insurance companies with respect to Saudi regulatory matters.

“I have known and respected Khalid for a long time, and he is an established name in the region,” said Greenberg Traurig executive chairman, Richard Rosenbaum.

“The change in local guidelines is allowing global law firms to build a genuine presence in the region. Khalid and the team that we expect to be joining us shortly, and each of their long-standing relationships with many of our lawyers and key regional clients, will allow us to make a material impact from day one,” he added.

A Squire spokesperson said the firm was positioning itself “for maximum growth in Saudi Arabia over the coming years under the new legal regulatory structure there.”

Chair Mark Ruehlmann commented: “The coming decade promises to be a time of immense growth and development in Saudi Arabia. We are committed to being in the Kingdom, are proud of our long history advising clients in and with interests in the Kingdom, and we are positioning ourselves to be the ‘go to’ firm in Saudi Arabia for years to come.”

Squire currently has two partners based in Saudi Arabia – corporate specialist Alex Gross and project finance and banking lawyer Shane Wilson. It also has offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

News of Greenberg Traurig’s Riyadh move follows Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith Freehills and Latham & Watkins becoming the first international law firms to be awarded licences to practise in Saudi Arabia earlier this month. 

Until now, most international firms have practised in Saudi Arabia through affiliations with local firms, but they must now apply for a licence to either set up a joint venture with registered Saudi lawyers or operate a branch office, offering only international law advice. 

The Law Society of England and Wales said the rules are 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 is also aims to increase opportunities for Saudi lawyers.  

Also earlier this month UK law firm Addleshaw Goddard announced it had hired a trio of partners from rival firms including Latham & Watkins to open an office in Riyadh.

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