UK firm latest to close Middle East office following a "detailed review" leaving it with four remaining offices in the region

Simmons & Simmons is to close its Abu Dhabi office following a "detailed review", the firm announced today.

The firm said that it will now service its clients in the region from "a consolidated and enhanced offering in Dubai".

It added: "Ultimately, the location of our offices is determined by the key markets for clients in our sectors. This is demonstrated by our recent office openings in Singapore, Munich and Luxembourg."

In the Middle East region, Simmons also has offices in Doha, Jeddah and Riyadh.

The firm has offered Abu Dhabi office's three partners the opportunity to relocate. They are set to be moved to either Dubai or London.

A spokesperson said that the office's two associates and some other staff had also been offered the opportunity to relocate to other offices, adding: "We will also identify and speak to the clients who have been working with Simmons & Simmons in Abu Dhabi to ensure their needs are covered."

In 2012, Simmons cut the jobs of some lawyers and support staff in the Middle East, with the firm's Abu Dhabi and Dubai offices affected due to tough market conditions. The firm declined to confirm how many people were affected.

Then, Simmons' Abu Dhabi office had 11 lawyers, including four partners.

Simmons launched in Abu Dhabi in 1994. It subsequently launched offices in Doha (2003) and Dubai (2005).

In Saudi Arabia, Simmons has been working in alliance with leading Jeddah-based law firm, Hammad & Al-Mehdar since May 2011. Hammad & Al-Mehdar established a presence in Riyadh in 2014.

Dubai is one of the firm's largest offices with 20 lawyers, including 10 partners, currently, according to the firm's website.

Simmons is not the first firm to close Middle East offices and focus its operations on Dubai. Last year, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) closed its Abu Dhabi office over the summer.

Meanwhile, Latham & Watkins announced in March plans to close its Abu Dhabi and Doha offices by the end of 2015. Its move was followed a couple of months later with the discovery that fellow US firm Baker Botts had decided to withdraw from Abu Dhabi at the start of 2015.

In none of these cases was the decision made because of a need to cut staff. HSF moved all five of its lawyers to its Dubai base.

Latham's 13 lawyers across the two offices were offered the opportunity to move to its consolidated base in Dubai, and accepted the offer.

Source - Legalweek