A group of 14 lawyers in the Middle East, including eight partners on July 16 announced their move from Norton Rose Fulbright to Baker Botts. They will practice from offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, according to partner John Lonsberg, who’s leading the group, and Baker Botts managing partner Andy Baker.
The group of laterals making the shift includes partners Mark Bisch, Jonathan Sutcliffe, Joseph Colagiovanni, Hassan Elsayed, Richard Devine and Philip Punwar in Dubai, and Sam Eversman in Riyadh.
In June, London-based Norton Rose and Houston-based Fulbright & Jaworski merged to form Norton Rose Fulbright.
Lonsberg says, as a Fulbright partner, he was part of the initial group in the Norton Rose-Fulbright merger discussions. But Lonsberg says subsequently the group of laterals he’s leading to Baker Botts, who have long practiced together, began re-evaluating “about how we can best grow and develop,” and “what is best for the continuing growth of senior and junior level members.” As someone who had hired and worked with many in the group for years, Lonsberg says he wanted to ensure they were at a firm where their way of practicing, providing clients with a broad array of advice, would flourish and continue to grow.
Lonsberg says the partners became convinced that a move to Baker Botts would best suit them going forward because of the Houston firm’s culture — his group particularly likes the Texas-based leadership — and its “well-established energy footprint,” among its other attractions.
Baker says he first met Lonsberg as “a respected adversary” when the two lawyers were on opposing sides of a 1991 deal and has waited for an opportunity to work on the same side as Lonsberg. The addition of the lawyers from Norton Rose Fulbright will bolster Baker Botts’ position as “an energy firm with clients who have interests in energy all over the world,” Baker says.
Dan McKenna, a spokesman for Norton Rose Fulbright in Dallas, confirms the laterals are leaving, without confirming the number.
McKenna also emailed a statement from Kenneth Stewart of Dallas, a member of the global executive committee for Norton Rose Fulbright: “Our combination to become Norton Rose Fulbright has made us a truly global legal organization, capable of providing seamless and superior client service anywhere our clients do business. While our combined firms are highly complementary, any combination of organizations brings inevitable changes in leadership and responsibilities and some overlap, and we understand that not all individuals will embrace those changes. The overwhelming majority of our partners and clients are excited with our combination and the expanded global platform it provides. We wish our former partners in the Middle East our best.”
The group moving to Baker Botts will work on matters related to corporate and commercial transactions, regulatory and compliance, project finance, international arbitration and dispute resolution matters and local law across a range of industries, including energy, technology, aviation and defense, construction, hospitality and consumer products — with the added dimension of anti-bribery and related corporate compliance and internal investigations.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Robert Jordan is the Baker Botts partner in charge of the Middle East offices. He welcomes the new lawyers to his firm, which the firm’s announcement of the laterals’ arrival states will now will have a total of 40 in the region. Jordan says he doesn’t expect recent turmoil among governments in the Middle East, including events in Cairo, where the removal of President Mohmmed Morsi took place last month, to stop the flow of legal business in the region.
“For those of us who have grown up in the oil patch, we certainly take into account the geopolitical developments that occur. But we are quite comfortable dealing with those, as are our clients,” Jordan says.