Doha, Qatar

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan has secured a license to launch an office in Qatar,  a move that will give the firm its first base in the Middle East.

The Am Law 100 firm received an official approval from the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) on Nov. 7, allowing it to practice both international and local law in the country’s capital of Doha.

Quinn Emanuel construction partner James Bremen, who also chairs the firm’s construction and engineering practice, is named on the filing as its local representative. He joined the global litigation powerhouse in December 2016 from Herbert Smith Freehills to launch a U.K. construction disputes group at Quinn Emanuel.

Quinn Emanuel plans on finding office space in the QFC sometime early next year. The office will be led by Bremen and include about five associates, all recruited locally in Doha. Bremen is expected to be the only partner in the city, dividing his time between Doha and London. While at Herbert Smith Freehills, he also split his time between both locations.

The new outpost in Qatar, a geopolitical hot spot this year as a result of a blockade and ongoing feud with its Middle Eastern neighbors, will not be a full-service office for Quinn Emanuel. Instead, the new venture will help serve Bremen’s practice, which is focused on construction projects and disputes.

Until 2006, international firms were restricted from opening offices in Doha without an association with a locally trained lawyer. Since then, the QFC has allowed law firms to move in through its own separate regulatory framework.

The Doha launch will be the first for Quinn Emanuel in the Middle East and bucks a trend of international firms scaling back in the region. Qatar, in particular, has seen some firms reassess their operations in the country as a result of its political disputes with regional rivals Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

In April, King & Wood Mallesons cut ties with Saudi Arabia’s Majed Almarshad, leaving the firm with just one base in the Middle East. Herbert Smith Freehills has also scaled back in the Middle East, closing its Qatar office this summer, less than two years after the firm opted to pull the plug on its base in Abu Dhabi.

Others to close offices in the region include Clifford Chance, which called time on its Qatar base in February, and Latham & Watkins, which opted to shut its Doha and Abu Dhabi offices in 2015 and now runs its regional practice out of Dubai and Riyadh.

Quinn Emanuel most recently expanded its office portfolio with an opening in Stuttgart, its ninth European base. The firm declined to discuss its plans in Qatar.