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Anna Ward and James Booth
Clifford Chance is pulling out of Qatar, roughly six years after opening in the country.
The office is set to close during the course of this month, with office head Jason Mendens relocating to Dubai.
The magic circle firm has been steadily reducing its presence on the ground in Doha for some time. There are no longer any lawyers or staff permanently based in the office, with Mendens already splitting his time across CC’s remaining Middle East offices. He will continue to head the Qatar practice from Dubai.
News of the closure comes after CC’s Qatar-based bank lending head, Robin Hickman, joined Addleshaw Goddard in Dubai as a partner last month. Hickman was a counsel at CC.
At its peak, CC had around five lawyers in the office including Mendens and Hickman, as well as two personal assistants (PAs). However, by last year, the only people formally based in Doha were: Mendens, Hickman, a PA and Richard Parris, who has been splitting his time between Abu Dhabi and Doha since 2011. There will be no redundancies or reductions in headcount as a result of the closure.
A CC spokesperson said: “From our ongoing discussions with both our Qatari clients and international clients looking to invest in Qatar, it is clear that there is no longer the same need for a presence on the ground in Doha. Rather, consolidating those relationships into Dubai and servicing clients from there and across our wider network, will be the best approach to providing them with seamless access to the wide range of advice and support they need as they expand their businesses in the region and globally.”
CC first launched an office in Doha in 2011, when the office was co-led by Parris and counsel Greg Englefield, who left in late 2013 to join legal consultancy Confluent Law Group in Iraq as managing partner.
The planned closure leaves CC with offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the Middle East, as well as an association in Saudi Arabia. A spokesperson confirmed the firm remains committed to Abu Dhabi and has just renewed its lease there.
There have been multiple office closures by international law firms across the Middle East. Latham & Watkins opted to shut its Doha and Abu Dhabi offices in 2015 and now runs its regional practice out of Dubai and Riyadh.
Others to close offices in the region include Hebert Smith Freehills, which withdrew from Abu Dhabi in 2015 and transferred five lawyers and two support staff to Dubai. US firm Baker Botts decided to withdraw from Abu Dhabi at the start of 2015.
Last year, Simmons & Simmons closed its Abu Dhabi office, leaving it with offices in Dubai, Doha, Jeddah and Riyadh. It offered three partners based in Abu Dhabi the opportunity to relocate to either Dubai or London.
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