AS PART of our special Middle East report, we asked Slaughter and May partner Andrew Balfour to offer Lawyers Weekly readers an insight into their Middle East strategy.
The firm has resisted the Middle East hype, making a “strategic decision” not to open an office in the region, Balfour said. Instead, the firm is focusing on the flow of investment in and out of Europe. Additionally, they are not recruiting lawyers specially to work in the Middle East. Instead, there are secondment opportunities available for lawyers at the firm seeking overseas experience. This bucks the trend of other UK-based firms seeking to expand their legal teams specifically to meet growing demand in the region.
“From our perspective there’s a lot of investment coming out of the Middle East into Europe, so it’s important to be involved in that … [but] we haven’t got an office there,” Balfour said. “Instead we’ve spent time visiting the investment companies and going to the law firms in the Middle East.”
This is consistent with the firm’s general international strategy, which focuses on building relationships with law firms on the ground with local knowledge and understanding, as well as personnel.
Balfour had a rather sobering prediction for the Middle East market. “What’s going to happen next? At some stage there is going to be a fallout,” he said.
“It is the market of the moment in terms of where people are pouring in. We’ve seen it before, 10 years ago it was Eastern Europe and law firms were pouring in and then half of them poured back out again. It will be exactly the same in the Middle East,” Balfour said.