Morgan, Lewis & Bockius is set to open an office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, with the hire of three partners from Vinson & Elkins.

The new location, which is still in the planning stages, will initially have a structured finance and energy bent.

Ayman A. Khaleq, a structured finance and debt capital markets attorney with a particular focus on Islamic finance, and Jim Knight, a corporate and transactional attorney with experience in the energy industry, will spearhead the new location. As part of the lateral acquisition, Morgan Lewis is also hiring Vinson & Elkins’ London-based partner Lewis Jones, who has focused on international energy projects under English law. Jones also spent some of his time in Vinson & Elkins’ Abu Dhabi office, according to that firm’s website. Morgan Lewis said Jones will be based in the firm’s London office and spend a significant amount of time in Dubai.

“The scale of deal, project, development and investment opportunities that our clients entertain in the Middle East is vast — and we’ve done well to meet those needs, utilizing our global network of support,” Morgan Lewis Chairman Francis M. Milone said in a statement. “But we’ve been looking for the right, best-in-class talent to augment our services, and Ayman, Jim and Lewis are it.”

Last year, Morgan Lewis opened Moscow and Almaty, Kazakhstan, locations and added depth in London with the addition of dozens of lawyers from defunct Dewey & LeBoeuf. Those transactions had a strong focus on energy as well.

Morgan Lewis said the Dubai attorneys would work closely with the firm’s London office as well as its other 23 offices across the globe. The firm said the team isn’t limited to the energy and infrastructure transactions, debt capital markets, structured finance, private equity funds, cross-border mergers and acquisitions, and Islamic finance that will start off as the core of the location. Morgan Lewis said the team can also offer clients access to the firm’s core litigation, labor and employment, intellectual property and corporate strategy services.

“Morgan Lewis offers us and our clients a platform that we could not find with any other firm,” Khaleq said in a statement. “The firm’s diverse set of practices and broad geographic footprint — complete with a strong London office, full-scale capabilities in Europe and a unique ability to provide service in Africa and other key emerging markets — will allow us to serve our clients from virtually any location worldwide.”

Of the four largest Pennsylvania law firms in terms of revenue and geographic reach, Morgan Lewis is the fourth to enter Dubai and the UAE.

Reed Smith opened an Abu Dhabi office in 1978 and a Dubai location in 2006. The firm has just under 20 attorneys housed across the two offices. K&L Gates launched in Dubai in 2009. It opened in nearby Doha, Qatar, in 2011. The firm has nearly 30 lawyers between the two locations. Dechert opened in Dubai and expanded in London in April 2012 with the hire of several attorneys from Dewey & LeBoeuf. The firm has 15 attorneys in its Dubai location.

- Read more about it in Wednesday’s Legal.