Along Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road, construction cranes seem almost as plentiful as sand. Hotels and office buildings are going up by the dozen, and already some of the world’s most recognizable corporate names — CNN, Cisco Systems and Microsoft — dot the landscape. There’s a billboard advertising “the most prestigious kilometer on the planet,” an extravagant new downtown project that will include the tallest tower on earth. Another announces the world’s largest shopping mall, which won’t be far from the soon-to-be largest theme park, the future home of Dubai’s second indoor snow skiing slope.
Welcome to Dubai, a city-state on development-enhancing drugs. With minimal taxes, a strategic location (Moscow and Delhi are only three to five hours away), and a genius for marketing itself, this city, one of seven semiautonomous sheikdoms that comprise the United Arab Emirates, has become a magnet for corporations and, increasingly, their lawyers. In the last three years, 10 Global 100 law firms, including DLA Piper, Vinson & Elkins, and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, have opened offices here. Magic Circle firms, which already dominate the region, are expanding their presence. And among lawyers, Dubai has generated a mountain of get-rich-quick buzz. “If you can’t make money in Dubai,” says Linklaters partner Ewan Cameron, “you should give up.”
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