When DLA Piper announced its ambition to enlarge its presence in Abu Dhabi, Doha, Dubai and Muscat, Kuwait was not included in the picture. But the demands from the oil-rich country has spurred DLA Piper to enter a joint venture with Al Wagayan, Al Awadhi & Al Saif, one of the largest firms in Kuwait.
The joint venture, DLA Piper Kuwait, will provide legal services to clients in Kuwait and capitalise on the Kuwaiti law firm’s areas of specialisation, which include corporate, commercial, banking & finance, Islamic finance and projects.
Already having 120+ lawyers in the region, DLA Piper is continuing its expansion of its presence in the Gulf through this development.
“The Kuwaiti market has grown and we have seen the completion of numerous transactions that are becoming ever more complex in nature and transcend Kuwaiti borders. Clients increasingly demand comprehensive legal representation that requires not only local expertise but also expert international resources, which we can now provide under the DLA Piper brand,” said Mr Nader Al Awadhi, senior partner at Al Wagayan, Al Awadhi & Al Saif.
Foreign law firms are only allowed to practise in the jurisdiction with a partner Kuwaiti firm. Kuwait’s legal market is largely domestic, with only a handful of local law firms handling international work. In recent times, the local law firms have made alliances with international firms and other Gulf firms to expand its practice.
One example is Al-Sarraf & Al-Ruwayeh, which has expanded its international practice by 30% in the last year. It benefits from a strong referral relationship with London firm Stephenson Harwood and also has a foothold in Bahrain through its association with Elham Ali Hassan & Associates and a tie up with Saudi firm Salah Al-Hejailan.
Most international law firms service Kuwait through their Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Bahrain offices. Ashurst’s Dubai office acted for Kuwait Petroleum on the landmark US$3bn project that involved the large-scale expansion of the Equate petrochemical complex, while Clifford Chance has been long-term advisor to the National Bank of Kuwait. Pinsent Masons is also actively involved in providing arbitration expertise in the region.