KWM closes Riyadh office after Middle East relaunch

King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) has decided to close its Riyadh office, as the firm consolidates its new European and Middle East platform.

KWM is in the process of winding down its association with the Law Office of Majed Almarshad in Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia. KWM China took over the office in January this year following the administration of KWM EUME LLP (legacy SJ Berwin).

“Following KWM’s relaunch of offices in Europe and the Middle East earlier this year, the firm and the Law Office of Majed Almarshad have reached a mutual agreement to exit from their arrangement,” says a spokesperson of KWM.

The termination of the association will see KWM pull out from Riyadh and focus on servicing the Middle East region from Dubai, which will be its only base in the region.

“KWM China remains committed to its Dubai office which will allow KWM to continue to service its clients in the Middle East. The Dubai office will continue to support clients in dispute resolution, corporate and construction matters,” the firm says.

KWM’s Dubai office is headed by disputes partner Tim Taylor, one of the 32 legacy SJ Berwin partners who moved across to KWM China in January.

The Riyadh office was first opened in January 2014 by the now defunct legacy SJ Berwin. It was the first office opened following SJ Berwin’s merger with Asia Pacific based King & Wood Mallesons and was labelled at the time as “the first time a global law firm headquartered in Asia has established a presence in the Kingdom”.

The office was founded and headed by Almarshad, who is a Saudi qualified of counsel and has worked in the corporate practice of legacy SJ Berwin’s Dubai office since 2011.

The Riyahd office focused primarily on the energy and infrastructure sector, and advised on corporate transactions, investment funds, financial regulation and dispute resolution.

As legacy SJ Berwin entered into administration in January, the Riyahd office was one of the seven offices transferred to KWM China and formed part of the Chinese firm’s new Europe and Middle East offerings. At the time, the office had two partners, Almarshad and corporate partner Glenn Lovell, who joined from local firm Al Tamimi & Company in June 2016.

It is understood that the official closure date for the Riyahd office is yet to be set as the firms are still finalising the exit arrangements.

A number of international firms have closed offices in the region in the past year as they rethink Middle East strategies. In February, Clifford Chance exited Qatar six years after entering the market. Herbert Smith Freehills is also closing its Qatar office, less than two years after the firm pulled out from Abu Dhabi. US firm Weil Gotshal & Manges has decided to wind down its sole Middle East office in Dubai.

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