Squire Sanders said Wednesday it has expanded its operations by acquiring the Middle East and North Africa team of association firm El-Khoury & Partners in Riyadh.
The office will operate as Al-Enezee in association with Squire Sanders and will serve corporate and government clients in the region. Kevin Connor, who serves as coordinating partner for Squire Sanders’s own Middle East and North Africa practice, will lead a Riyadh office of 15 full-time lawyers, alongside partners Ziad El-Khoury, Khulaif Al-Enezee, Wissam Hachem, and Hadi Melki. (Al-Enezee will serve as the firm’s Saudi relationship partner as required by local law.) El-Khoury & Partners will continue to operate in association with Squire Sanders in Beirut.
Squire Sanders formalized its association with El-Khoury & Partners in Riyadh and Beirut in 2009, four years after El-Khoury founded the firm. Including the 15 attorneys in Riyadh, Squire Sanders now has a total of 46 lawyers in its Middle East and North Africa practice.
“We have worked closely with El-Khoury and Al-Enezee for many years, and the consolidation of this relationship is a natural progression,” Connor said in a statement. “Saudi Arabia is the Middle East’s largest economy and so a strong, on the ground presence in the Kingdom is a key step in further developing our regional practice.”
Connor tells The Am Law Daily that the move could also open the door for the firm to begin hiring female attorneys to practice in Saudi Arabia if the Saudi Ministry of Justice, rules as expected in the near future on a measure that would allow Saudi women to practice law and represent clients in the Kingdom’s courts. “What we are looking to do is empower women through the hiring of young Saudi women,” Connor says.
El-Khoury said in a statement that the acquisition will provide his clients with access to Squire Sanders’s international reach. “As part of a global practice, we can offer regional clients considerable added value and will be able to leverage our presence in the Middle East, particularly in the telecoms, capital markets, projects and infrastructure sectors—these are key sectors in this market and for which Squire Sanders already has an outstanding reputation in many jurisdictions worldwide,” El-Khoury said.
Al-Enezee agreed that the move will benefit local clients. “Our own advice to clients has become more diversified as the economy has diversified—we now advise inbound and outbound on a local, regional, and cross-border basis, so being integrated into Squire Sanders’s global platform strengthens our capabilities significantly,” he said in a statement.
Squire Sanders is not the only firm that has been active in the Middle East lately. Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton launched its first outpost in the region last month with the opening of an Abu Dhabi office. Hogan Lovells, meanwhile, chose to consolidate its United Arab Emirates practice last month when it closed its own Abu Dhabi location and transferred all work to its Dubai office.
For Squire Sanders—which had $741.5 million in gross revenues last year, according to The American Lawyer‘s most recent Am Law 100 data—the expansion in the Middle East comes on the heels of moves the firm has made to grow in other parts of the world in recent years. Following a 2010 merger with British firm Hammonds that offered access to a number of European markets, Squire Sanders joined the crush of firms targeting the Australian market by launching in Perth in 2011. Earlier this year, the firm bolstered its Asia-Pacific presence by opening offices in Singapore and Seoul.