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CHICAGO � DLA Piper, the second-largest law firm in the United States based on worldwide attorneys, is planning to open offices in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, and perhaps the neighboring country of Qatar, and is also exploring setting up in Mumbai, India. The firm, which already has an office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, sees the Persian Gulf region as attractive because of the oil wealth and booming real estate industry, said Lee Miller, one of three joint chief executives for the international firm. Similarly, the firm is focusing on real estate finance projects and large privatizations in Asia and Africa, he said. “If we get this right, we will have a global real estate practice,” Miller said in an interview. The Persian Gulf region is drawing attention from firms as rising oil prices fuel the region’s expanding economy. Firms best suited to the region have a strong London presence in an existing international network, and practice areas and clients driving demand for services, said Lisa Smith, a vice president at Hildebrandt International. “It’s a market that firms are looking at and there’s opportunity there,” said Smith, whose company this month released the report The Gulf: Opportunities in the Legal Services Market. “It’s fairly stable, but there’s always political instability and risk.” New York-based Chadbourne & Parke opened an office in Dubai earlier this year. The largest U.S. firm, Baker & McKenzie, which has its biggest office in London, has offices in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. DLA Piper, with about 3,400 lawyers, not only can respond to the expanding legal needs of businesses and people in the region, but it can keep spreading the cyclical economic risks of business over a broader geographic portfolio, Miller said. This allows the firm to shift its resources around the world, just as it sometimes does among various practice areas, as needs ebb and flow, he said. DLA Piper partner David Church is spearheading the Middle East expansion effort for the firm from Dubai. The firm has never been interested in expansion for expansion’s sake; its focus continues to be on four different practice areas � litigation, corporate, government and regulatory, and real estate � with litigation making up the largest proportion of work in a fairly even balance of the areas. DLA Piper’s global growth will feed a domestic build-up mainly in New York, with the office there expecting to add 200 or so more lawyers to the current total of about 200, Miller said. For now, Chicago is the firm’s largest office, but it will be overtaken one day by New York, he said. The firm has grown with its clients with the average revenue of clients quadrupling or quintupling during the past five years as clients changed in some cases and grew in others. DLA Piper was the product of a three-way, trans-Atlantic merger in January 2005.

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