As Dubai has been planning to become the capital of Islamic Economy for quite some time now, several major law firms from all over the world have been trying to set up their offices in the city to grab the ever-growing share of the pie of Islamic Finance. Watson Farley & Williams (WFP) is one such company. It has today launched its first office in the Middle East, based in Dubai. Many other legal practices from New York, London are also planning to follow the suit.
The office will be headed up by partner Andrew Baird, who relocated to Dubai in April to help navigate the jurisdiction’s regulatory requirements.
Baird will be supported by two associates – one relatively junior who specialises in maritime and offshore work, and another more senior with a wider rage of finance experience, including asset and Islamic finance.
Baird told The Lawyer: “We’re bringing people from within the firm as it’s very important to have the DNA of WFW firmly embedded in the new office”.
He emphasised that the launch is a result of client demand, adding: “Over time, a group of clients made it clear that they’d much prefer to see us on the ground over here and in our own office.”
WFW acts for a number of international and local banks in the Middle East, particularly in respect to marine and asset finance matters. It also has a close relationship with a number of shipping firms, including national shipping companies.
Baird also specialises in Islamic finance, which will form a large part of the Dubai office’s offering. Having kicked off his career at WFW Baird quit to join Berwin Leighton Paisner in 2001, but returned to his original firm in 2011 to bolster its asset finance group.
The team is currently renting office space in Dubai’s DIFC zone. Baird says said “there’s no plan to flood the office with lots of people” he expects to grow the outpost through both organic and lateral hiring.
Earlier this month, Nabarro doubled the size of its Dubai office in a bid to bulk up its constructions disputes practice (4 September 2014).