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UK-Listed Law Firm Launches in Middle East

U.K.-listed law firm Keystone Law has obtained approval to establish a new office in Abu Dhabi, UAE, the firm has announced.

The ADGM, the UAE capital’s international financial centre, has granted approval to the firm to establish its new office. It would be the AIM-listed firm’s first foray into the region.

The firm said in a statement that a second office in the Emirate of Dubai is “likely to follow due to strong interest from lawyers in the region who are looking to join the firm.”

Waseem Khokhar, former regional managing partner for PwC Legal Middle East, and DWF Middle East, will head up the office. Previously also a partner with DLA Piper in London, he has over 25 years’ post-qualification experience and is also a registered legal consultant with the Government of Dubai Legal Affairs Department.

“The Middle East has a vibrant and diverse legal market, which is now prime for Keystone’s unique model offering independence and flexibility to experienced lawyers,” said Khokhar. “We are currently in advanced discussions to recruit a number of excellent international lawyers to the firm.”

Law firms are joining the throng to set up business at the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), which has stolen a march on regional financial technology (FinTech) hub rivals to lead the field in the Gulf Cooperation Council, and has vowed to launch virtual asset exchanges before the end of the year.

Founded in 2002 by current CEO, James Knight, AIM-listed Keystone Law claims its ‘plug and play’ platform model disrupts “traditional law firms operating within the legal services mid-market, [permitting] rapid scalability, enabling the Group to increase the number of revenue-generating lawyers more quickly than the traditional model.”

Keystone saw revenues rise 16% in the year ended January 31, after reporting first-half revenues up 15%. It decided to cancel dividend payouts in March due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A full-service commercial law firm with a head office in London and around 350 lawyers in the UK, Keystone has an annual turnover of over £43 million, and is the U.K.’s 77th largest firm, it said in a statement.

Keystone launched operations in Australia in the name of Keypoint Law in 2013, which now has 51 lawyers with offices in Melbourne and Sydney.

Over 90 financial services providers, many with a fintech focus, are now licensed by ADGM’s oversight body, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA). The FSRA launched its framework to regulate spot crypto-asset activities, such as exchanges, custodians, and other intermediaries, in June 2018.

LeadersInLaw Shanghai

Fieldfisher launch four-partner office in Shanghai

Fieldfisher has launched a four-partner office in Shanghai and has plans to double its partner count there by June.

LeadersInLaw Shanghai

The firm’s China managing partner, Zhaofeng Zhou, said: “Shanghai is a truly global city and was the natural location for our next office. Growth is an important part of our plan in China and we expect a further four partners to join the Shanghai office by June.”

Zhou joined JS Partners as managing partner in July last year from Bird & Bird’s Beijing office.

Fieldfisher managing partner Michael Chissick added: “We’ve been working closely to ensure continued growth of the firm in China – and the opening of a Shanghai office is a natural next step.”

Fieldfisher corporate partner and competition law specialist Liang Xing will lead the office. Xing is joining the firm from Chinese firm MyLink, where he was a partner.

He is joined by patent litigation partner Rocky Wu, who previously worked for Chinese firm JT&N.

Two of the firm’s Beijing partners – tax partner Baoen Bai and corporate partner Ming Zhang – will transfer to Shanghai.

Two additional partners are set to join the new office in March, with another two arriving in June.

Three years ago, Fieldfisher secured a presence in Shanghai through a Swiss verein combination with three-partner firm Ryser & Associates. However, that tie-up has since ended.

Under the verein structure, Fieldfisher operates as a licensed Chinese law firm, with access to all aspects of Chinese legal practice. The setup was pioneered in 2012 by legacy King & Wood when it merged with Australian firm Mallesons Stephen Jaques. Last year, the same structure was used by Dentons when it merged with Beijing-based Dacheng.

Separately, it has emerged that Fieldfisher is in early discussions to hire partners in Olswang’s Munich office.

Source: Legal Week