Clifford Chance Tests Mixed Partnership in Saudi Arabia

Joshua Freedman reports:

Clifford Chance announced last week that it had received regulatory approval to set up a mixed partnership in Saudi Arabia comprising foreign and Saudi lawyers. Although this has been allowed for several years, the magic circle firm claims to be the first international outfit to take the opportunity.

The rules permit up to 75 per cent of a law firm operating in Saudi to be owned by a foreign person or organization. In fact, the rules are stricter than they seem: the 25 per cent must be under the ownership not just of a Saudi, but a Saudi-qualified national. This excludes Saudis whose legal qualification was obtained in the US or UK.

Even though the license gives them the right to practice Saudi law, the firm has no intention of breaking into the local litigation market due to the nature of disputes and the fact that litigation in Saudi courts is all carried out in Arabic. Instead, CC will be sticking to transactional work only. Still, Saudi lawyer Bandar al-Nogaithan described this as an “historic event.”