Allen & Overy and Khoshaim & Associates end cooperation agreement

Firms will continue to work together but say a looser arrangement suits their strategic needs

Allen & Overy (A&O) and its Saudi Arabian partner Khoshaim & Associates (K&A) have ended their co-operation agreement with both sides stating the benefits of working with a wider range of law firms.

The exclusive agreement was struck in 2012 with Allen & Overy marketing the relationship on its website and through joint announcements. It was quietly shelved on 9 October, although both sides have stressed they will continue to work closely going forward.

“We have seen an increase in the volume and range of matters for which clients are seeking support in Saudi Arabia,” A&O said in a statement. “In order to increase our capacity to meet this demand we have taken the decision to work with a broader range of law firms in the Kingdom.”

K&A managing partner Zeyad Khoshaim added: “This joint decision serves each firm’s strategic interests. For K&A, it allows us to be independent and work with other firms, including US-based firms. This opens up opportunities to work on a wider set of matters and service clients from the US, amongst other jurisdictions with strong ties to Saudi Arabia.”

K&A, which is based in Riyadh, has four partners, three counsel and around 35 lawyers. It is highly rated in the Chambers and Partners directory with Khoshaim ranked as a Band 1 individual.

Khoshaim – who originally joined A&O as a partner in 2010 – said the practice had grown into a full-service firm, expanding its partnership and opening an office in Jeddah.

He added that the multi-billion-dollar Vision 2030 strategy to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy away from oil had generated a lot of interest from US companies . This, he said, “put the firm in a good position to advise US-based companies like AMC and Johns Hopkins University on their investments, and collaborate with other firms with specialised expertise on mega deals like Saudi Aramco’s acquisition of SABIC, Saudi Aramco’s IPO, and the SAMBA/NCB merger”.

For its part, A&O, which has regional offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, underlined its Middle East credentials.

“As one of the law firms with the longest established presences in the Middle East,” it said, “we remain committed to the region and we believe this decision will best serve our clients in Saudi Arabia and around the world in the longer term.”

In August, the two firms cooperated on two major deals for Saudi Electricity Company; a $2.4bn syndicated murabaha facility agreement provided by a syndicate of Saudi banks and and a %1.3bn dual-tranche green sukuk. A&O’s Dubai team advised on the first deal with a London team spearheading work on the latter.

In March A&O ended its longstanding alliance with its Romanian ally in a move that saw six-partner Radu Taracila Padurari Retevoescu (RTPR) relaunch as a standalone practice.

However, in January the magic circle UK firm become the latest international practice to forge a formal alliance with a local practice in Shanghai.

Saudi Arabia announces reforms protecting migrant workers

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (HRSD) in Saudi Arabia launched today a Labor Reform Initiative (LRI) Wednesday aimed at improving job mobility for migrant workers by lifting “kafala” restrictions that have historically left workers vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

The LRI seeks to regulate employee exit and re-entry visa issuance, allowing workers to move freely without requiring the employer’s consent, and enables workers to transfer sponsorship between employers. However, employers will receive a notice of the employee’s departure from the country via smartphone apps with the worker “bearing all consequences” of violating the employment contract. The Kingdom hopes these reforms will improve the job market, reduce the disparity between Saudi and migrant workers, and strengthen Saudi Arabia’s presence in the global market sphere. Reforms are due to take effect in March 2021.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced reforms as part of a broader plan called Vision 2030 designed to attract foreign investors. Vision 2030 seeks to expand the Saudi private sector and “diversify” the country’s oil-dependent economy.

Human rights organizations remain skeptical. Migrant Rights researcher Ali Mohammed says the current kafala system will continue as long as migrant worker visas are sponsored by an individual, known as the “kafeel.” However, Mohamed notes that “any move toward delinking migrant workers from the control of a single sponsor will certainly benefit migrant workers and is to be welcomed.”

Amnesty International migrant rights researcher May Romanos cited similar concerns, stating that “the devil is usually in the details.” Romanos says that Saudi must publish and enforce the new reforms if there is any hope for change. Otherwise, she says, foreign workers may be vulnerable to a new host of human rights violations.

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.

White & Case Advises Banks on US$1 Billion Notes Issuance

Global law firm White & Case LLP has advised First Abu Dhabi Bank P.J.S.C., Goldman Sachs International, HSBC Bank plc, Samba Capital & Investment Management Company and Standard Chartered Bank, as managers, on Samba Funding Limited’s issuance of US$1 billion Notes due 2024 under its newly established US$5 billion Euro Medium Term Note Programme.

“This issuance represents Samba Bank’s successful entrance into global debt capital markets and we were well-placed to advise the investment banks based both regionally and internationally on the establishment and issue under the new programme,” said White & Case partner Debashis Dey, who led the Firm’s deal team.

Samba Funding Limited is a wholly-owned subsidiary of, and the Notes are guaranteed by, Saudi Arabia-based international financial services provider Samba Financial Group.

The White & Case team which advised on the offering was led by partner Debashis Dey (Dubai & London) with support from counsel Xuan Jin (Dubai) and associates Michael Byrd (London) and Sarah Altukhaifi (Riyadh).