Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Photo: April Tan

Holman Fenwick Willan has established a new alliance in Saudi Arabia, as the firm recalibrates its strategy in the region following a period of concerted expansion.

The firm has signed up to work with Riyadh firm Mohammed Al Khiliwi, which is led by name partner Al Khiliwi alongside senior associate Abdul Ammar. 

HFW insurance partner John Barlow, who splits his time between Riyadh and Dubai, will also work closely with the operation.

The new alliance comes after the end of the firm’s previous tie-ups with Saudi firm Al-Enezee and Beirut firm El-Khoury & Partners—associations that had been in place since 2015. HFW now no longer has a presence in Lebanon and it does not plan to open a new office there.

HFW Dubai office head Richard Gimblett said the firms had parted company due to “differences between practices,” and added that the previous associations had achieved their purpose by getting HFW into the local market.

HFW also previously had a Saudi alliance with Allazzam Law Office, owned by Faisal Allazzam—an arrangement that ran from 2010 to 2014.

Gimblett added that the firm was now planning to ramp up its practice in Saudi Arabia along the firm’s global sector lines, as part of a broader push in the Middle East, where the firm is aiming to develop its brand.

HFW has made a concerted push into the Middle East over the past few years and is now among the biggest international firms in the region. The firm launched in the Middle East in 2006 with the opening of its Dubai office, and last October moved into Abu Dhabi, bringing the firm’s total head count in the region to more than 100, including 20 partners.

The Middle East has become an important driver of growth in the firm’s core sectors of shipping, aerospace, commodities, construction, energy and insurance.

There’s no doubt the legal market in the Middle East has hardened. It is much more competitively priced than a few years ago,” Gimblett said. “You need to offer something different, which we do. We are now a very substantial outfit with a big regional footprint, and there are huge opportunities in the region. It’s been one of our biggest growth areas over quite a few years.”