CMS boosts Middle East presence via exclusive Saudi association with former Trowers alliance firm

CMS has strengthened its Middle East coverage by sealing an exclusive alliance with Saudi Arabian law firm Feras Al Shawaf.

The exclusive association, which came into effect yesterday (12 September), expands on an existing relationship between the two firms.

In addition to referral work, the two firms will work together in Saudi Arabia on matters where clients require additional international expertise.

Feras Al Shawaf formerly had an alliance with Trowers & Hamlins, which dates back to 2007. It is unclear when that arrangement came to an end.

CMS executive partner for global development Duncan Weston said: “Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is a dynamic growth region that is gaining importance for our clients and Saudi Arabia is the largest economy in the region. Our Middle East offices, particularly the Dubai office, have been working with Feras Al Shawaf for some time. Now, as associated firms, CMS and Feras Al Shawaf will intensify this relationship, setting up an integrated team to ensure that a full and efficient service is provided at the right level.”

Feras Al Shawaf has 11 lawyers including three partners, according to its website. The firm’s focus areas include corporate law, commercial law, intellectual property, litigation, arbitration and banking and finance.

The Saudi firm will add to CMS’s existing presence in Algeria, Iran, Morocco, Oman, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, and its associated offices in Iraq and Lebanon. Dubai is the hub of CMS’s MENA operations.

CMS now has 72 offices in 41 countries and more than 1,000 partners and 7,500 total staff.

This move reflects a similar approach in Latin America. In January this year, three Latin American firms from Chile, Colombia and Peru joined CMS, adding to its existing presence in Brazil and Mexico.

There have been multiple office closures by international law firms across the Middle East in recent years.

In April, King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) cut ties with local firm Majed Almarshad, leaving the firm with just one base in the Middle East. KWM had operated in Riyadh since 2014 via a deal that was secured by legacy SJ Berwin prior to its ill-fated merger with the Sino-Australian firm in November 2013.

Meanwhile, Herbert Smith Freehills 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.