Kirkland & Ellis secures Latham, White & Case partners for Riyadh launch

Chicago giant chooses Saudi Arabia for Middle East headquarters citing Kingdom’s growing significance for clients

(l-r) Kamran Bajwa, Manal Al-Musharaf and Noor Al-Fawzan Images courtesy of Kirkland & Ellis

Kirkland & Ellis has added partners from Latham & Watkins and White & Case to open an office in Riyadh. 

The firm said the new office, its 20th globally, will serve as its headquarters for the Middle East. It will be led by Kirkland corporate partner Kamran Bajwa, who has served as head of the firm’s Middle East practice since 2011.

Rising stars Noor Al-Fawzan and Manal Al-Musharaf have also joined Kirkland for the launch from the local offices of Latham & Watkins and White & Case respectively. Al-Fawzan is an M&A and general corporate lawyer while Al-Musharaf’s practice focuses on capital market transactions. 

“Saudi Arabia is an important market requiring sophisticated legal services for international business. At the same time, the Kingdom is one of the world’s fastest growing economies and that is becoming increasingly significant for Kirkland’s client base,” said Jon Ballis, chairman of Kirkland’s executive committee. “Our Riyadh office will help us to serve our many clients with operations in and interests across Saudi Arabia and throughout the Middle East.”

Bajwa’s experience in the Middle East includes eight years living in the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, Kirkland said. He joined the firm in 2011 as a partner from a role as chief legal officer at Egyptian investment bank EFG Holding; his practice focuses on complex transactions on behalf of private equity sponsors, corporations, family offices and individuals.

Meantime Al-Fawzan focuses her practice on M&A, joint ventures and general corporate matters with a Saudi nexus. She made partner at Latham earlier this year having rejoined the firm as an associate in 2016 after a stint as legal counsel in the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, an arm of the World Bank Group.

Al-Musharaf advises public and private issuers and investment banks on capital markets transactions including equity offerings and ongoing corporate governance and reporting obligations. She joined White & Case in 2020 and became a local partner at the firm last year having previously served as legal director of the Public Investment Fund Projects/NEOM Company in Riyadh. She and Al-Fawzan are qualified to practise in Saudi Arabia and the state of New York.

Kirkland’s Saudi launch follows amendments to the Kingdom’s Code of Law Practice that 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. Kirkland said it had been granted a foreign law licence. 

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 and CMS have announced they were debuting in Saudi Arabia. 

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