Greenberg Traurig opens in Dubai with twin partner hire from BCLP

US firm celebrates launch with arrival of real estate partner duo as it builds Middle East presence

Greenberg Traurig (GT) has opened an office in Dubai, hiring two real estate partners from Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) in the process.

The move follows on from the firm’s launch in Saudi Arabia in March when it formed an affiliation with Riyadh-based Khalid Al-Thebity Law Firm, Squire Patton Boggs’ former ally.

The arrival of former BCLP partners Stephen Kelly and Sarah Mahood boosts the number of shareholders across the firm’s Riyadh and Dubai offices to eight. Five counsel and five associates and trainees complete the complement of lawyers in the team, 10 of whom are based in Dubai.

Kelly and Mahood are highly rated real estate specialists with a focus on the hospitality sector. Both have extensive experience advising on property deals in Dubai and have worked together as a team for nearly 10 years, first at King & Spalding, then at Dechert, and latterly at BCLP, which they joined in November 2020. 

Executive chairman Richard A Rosenbaum said: “Our vision is always long term, and we are honoured to play a part in the regional growth and innovation phenomenon here that is simply unprecedented in both scope and magnitude, cutting across virtually all of our core strategic practices and industries, while becoming a key source of global investment.”

Also joining the firm’s Dubai office, as a counsel, is real estate specialist Rebecca Comerford. The former Thamas Water senior legal counsel has most recently been working in the UAE as a senior legal consultant with Allen & Overy’s flexible resourcing arm Peerpoint. 

More senior hires are promised across both offices as the firm “continues to build out its full team across all practices and industries”. 

The extent of GT’s international ambitions were underlined in 2015 when the top 20 US firm entered into merger talks with legacy BCLP firm London-based Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP). Those talks were called off in the spring of 2016, clearing the way for BLP to merger with Bryan Cave in 2018.

In April, GT opened in Singapore a year after hiring a trio of Hogan Lovells energy and infrastructure specialists to help support the launch. It is the firm’s fourth Asian office.

Meanwhile, there has been a flurry of international law firm activity in Saudi Arabia as the kingdom seeks to open up its legal market as part of a drive to diversify its economy away from oil.

In March Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith Freehills and Latham & Watkins became the first international law firms to be awarded licences to practise in Saudi Arabia, taking advantage of a liberalisation of the kingdom’s establishment rules.

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