Abu Dhabi (deveritt/iStock)
After opening offices in Anchorage and Dallas in recent months thanks to a bevy of hires from Patton Boggs, Holland & Knight has chosen to shutter its sole outpost in the Middle East in order to focus on its operations in the Americas.
Holland & Knight confirmed in a statement that the firm would close its office in Abu Dhabi within the next few months. News of the closure was first reported by U.K. publication Legal Week.
“We have experienced significant growth in the U.S. and Latin America over the past two years and expect to continue to do so, both in opening new offices and in adding highly qualified lawyers in existing offices,” said a statement sent to The Am Law Daily via a Holland & Knight spokeswoman. “We have had only a small physical presence in the [Persian] Gulf, and we will continue to service our Gulf-based clients and other clients with interests in the Gulf through our other offices.”
Holland & Knight saw gross revenue rise 4.8 percent in 2013 to $627 million, while profits per partner at the 956-lawyer firm rose 8.4 percent to $1.03 million, according to The American Lawyer’s most recent Am Law 100 rankings. Steven Sonberg, reelected to a second term as firm managing partner last year, told sibling publication the Daily Business Review earlier this year that new offices in Dallas and Mexico City helped Holland & Knight boost its financial performance in 2013.
The firm itself established a presence in Mexico City last August by poaching a nine-lawyer team from Chadbourne & Parke, according to our previous reports. A year ago this week, Holland & Knight entered Dallas by bringing on a 23-lawyer team—including 12 partners—from Patton Boggs.
Holland & Knight returned to Patton Boggs this month to hire an eight-lawyer team from the firm in Anchorage after the latter’s merger with Squire Sanders went into effect, according to the DBR. The additions created a new outpost in the 49th state for Miami-based Holland & Knight, which at the time had 19 offices around the world.
Holland & Knight opened its Abu Dhabi office in September 2008 to service clients such as the Al Masaood Group, a conglomerate that owns hotels, energy assets and other construction and infrastructure projects. The Abu Dhabi base was initially led by corporate partner Donald Moore, who defected to Reed Smith in December 2011.
Oliver Agha, a former global head of Islamic finance at DLA Piper who left the global legal giant to launch his own boutique in 2009, joined Holland & Knight’s Abu Dhabi office last year. But earlier this year, Agha quietly left the firm to restart his own solo practice, and an association agreement between his firm and Holland & Knight has now been terminated following the latter’s exit from the region.
Other Holland & Knight lawyers currently residing in Abu Dhabi include office head Steven Hunt—who joined the firm in September 2012 from leading local firm Al Tamimi & Company—and partners Robert Grammig, George Howell III and Andrew Stephenson. The latter three all split their time between Abu Dhabi and the U.S., as does senior counsel and policy adviser Merhnoosh Aryanpour.
Legal Week reports that Hunt is expected to leave Holland & Knight, which in its statement said it was working to assist those affected by its looming Abu Dhabi closure.
“We intend to maintain the many valuable relationships we have developed in the region over the past few years,” the firm said. “We are assisting our Abu Dhabi attorneys and staff during this transition, and wish them the best in their future endeavors.”