Simmons & Simmons announces Saudi Arabia debut

UK firm adds former DLA Piper partner and his team to open third Middle East office in Riyadh

Simmons & Simmons has unveiled plans to open in Riyadh, becoming the latest law firm to look to Saudi Arabia as it becomes increasingly significant for clients.  

The new office – the UK-headquartered firm’s third in the region after its bases in Qatar and Dubai – will be led by partner Amer Al Amr, who has joined having been managing partner of his own firm for the past four years. Before that he was a partner at DLA Piper in Riyadh.  

Simmons said the launch, which is subject to regulatory approval, would bolster its offering in the region across its chosen sectors – asset management and investment funds, financial institutions, healthcare and life sciences and technology, media and telecommunications.   

“This is a transformative move for Simmons’ practice in the Middle East,” said managing partner Jeremy Hoyland. “Saudi Arabia is an engine for growth in the region and its economic ambitions are closely aligned with the firm’s sectors and our clients’ focus. We already have a record of working with clients on their KSA inbound and outbound business, which we will now be able to take to the next level. We look forward to working with new partner Amer Al Amr and building our presence in the region.” 

Al Amr will be supported in the new office by disputes partner Niall Clancy, who will relocate from Simmons’ Doha office, alongside another partner and a team of associates, trainees and business services professionals, the firm said. 

For his part Al Amr brings more than 20 years of legal experience to his new firm. He has handled a range of litigation and arbitration matters in the kingdom, including insurance and re-insurance matters, and also advises clients on corporate and commercial matters in relation to IPOs, joint ventures, acquisitions, foreign investment, company incorporation and services and distribution contracts.  

Al Amr commented: “It’s a privilege to be leading Simmons’ new office in Riyadh. This is a breakthrough moment for the firm and one that will strengthen its capabilities across the Middle East. I am confident that my team’s local expertise, combined with Simmons’ international reputation, will enable us to capitalise on the opportunities that lie ahead.” 

Simmons’ Saudi move follows amendments to the kingdom’s Code of Law Practice that came into effect last year and means 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.  

Last 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, CMS and Gibson Dunn have announced they were debuting in Saudi Arabia. 

Email your news and story ideas to: [email protected]