Desert dreams – why law firms are reassessing their Middle East strategies


In Abu Dhabi Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has been looking in recent months to sub-let half its office space on the 23rd floor of the prestigious Al Sila Tower. The firm stresses it remains committed to the city, but its move nonetheless reflects a broader readjustment of international law firm ambitions in the UAE capital.

“It’s no secret that we are looking to sub-let half of the floor we originally let,” says Zubair Mir, head of HSF’s Middle East operations, before adding that “we are not looking to return the lease in any way”. He explains: “What happened was we bought an entire floor in Dubai which became more full than we expected, so when we negotiated in Abu Dhabi we took out more space than we needed to try to avoid the situation of not having enough room.”

HSF is not alone in rethinking its needs in Abu Dhabi. Hogan Lovells closed its outpost there last year and transferred its work to the firm’s Dubai office, having decided that it made for a stronger regional hub.