Mishcon de Reya plans Saudi Arabia launch

UK firm becomes latest law firm to look to Riyadh amid Kingdom’s growing economic importance

Mishcon de Reya has applied to open an office in Riyadh, becoming the latest in a number of law firms to look to Saudi Arabia as the Kingdom becomes increasingly significant for clients. 

Mishcon said that, subject to confirmation from Saudi authorities, it intended to set up a joint venture company with the Ebrahim Al Habardi Law Office, which previously worked in association with Jones Day.

The move follows amendments to Saudi Arabia’s Code of Law Practice that mean foreign law firms can no longer work there through an association with a local firm and instead need a licence to operate through a joint venture or branch office. 

Mishcon’s executive chairperson, Kevin Gold, said Saudi Arabia was already a key jurisdiction for the firm and “is rightly recognised as the biggest single market for legal services in the Middle East”. 

He added: “The opening of an office in Riyadh is a logical next step and further underlines our commitment to the region. Having a fully functioning office in Saudi Arabia is also consistent with our expansion to meet the needs of our global clients, complementing our offerings in Singapore and Hong Kong.” 

Known as Mishcon de Reya Lawyers & Legal Consultants, the JV will be led by joint managing partners Ebrahim Al Habardi, founder and principal of his namesake firm and former Jones Day of counsel, and London-based Mishcon Private partner Kassim Meghjee. 

Rounding out the leadership team is Mishcon’s London-based head of Middle East, Martin Davies, who will serve as the office’s joint chairman alongside Yusuf Giansiracusa, who retired from Jones Day’s partnership at the end of last year and will also act as senior special counsel. 

Mishcon said the new office would give it a platform to develop its existing relationships with Saudi Arabian corporate and individual clients globally. It will also work with Saudi families and international companies doing business in the Kingdom, including on corporate matters, M&A, joint ventures, projects, construction, real estate, litigation and arbitration, as well as support the firm’s work across the entire range of PIF sponsored projects. 

The firm added that the office represented “a further significant step” in its 10-year strategy to expand internationally in new centres of economic growth and follows it opening in Singapore in 2020 and forming an association with Hong Kong firm Karas in 2021. 

The Riyadh office will integrate with Mishcon’s offices in London, Cambridge, Oxford and Singapore, the firm said, and work closely with the Karas So team in Hong Kong.  

Former Jones Day corporate lawyer Michael Maloney will be appointed together with Al Habardi and will be based in Riyadh. Once the office is open, Mishcon also intends to grow the Riyadh-based team with additional Saudi lawyers at partner and associate level.

According to the Law Society of England and Wales the amendment to Saudi Arabia’s Code of Law Practice is intended to encourage firms to set up there 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. Kirkland & Ellis also said yesterday (31 October) that it had hired partners from Latham & Watkins and White & Case to set up shop in Riyadh

Jones Day no longer has an office in Saudi Arabia, according to its website, with Dubai currently listed as the firm’s sole location in the Middle East. 

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