Weil Gotshal to close Dubai base as Middle East cutbacks continue

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Weil Gotshal & Manges has become the latest law firm to rethink its presence in the Middle East, with the US outfit deciding to close its Dubai office.

The firm’s sole Middle East base, which opened at the beginning of 2009, is set to close its doors this summer. The office focuses on private equity, M&A, international arbitration, restructuring and corporate governance.

Middle East head and Dubai office managing partner Joe Tortorici is expected to transfer to one of the firm’s European offices. Two associates are also resident in Dubai.

Tortorici, the US firm’s former European head, relocated to the Middle East from Prague in 2009 to lead the office. He had previously played a key role in establishing many of the US firm’s European offices and was initially based in Budapest after relocating from New York in 1991.

A firm spokesperson said: “After careful consideration, we have decided to close our three-lawyer office in Dubai. The office will close at the end of the second quarter. Clients in the region will continue to be serviced through our London office, and the managing partner of our Dubai office will continue to oversee the firm’s Middle East operations from Europe.”

The decision sees Weil join the growing ranks of firms scaling back operations in the Middle East. Last week, it emerged that Herbert Smith Freehills and Clifford Chance are both set to close their Qatar offices.

There have been multiple office closures by international law firms across the Middle East during the past two years. 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 US firm Baker Botts, which 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.

However, Dentons has bucked the trend by launching an office in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, relocating Riyadh regulatory partner Anas Akel to lead the base.