Squire Patton Boggs partners with Saudi law practice for new Riyadh office

Signage is seen outside of the law firm Squire Patton Boggs in Washington, D.C.
Signage is seen outside of the law firm Squire Patton Boggs in Washington, D.C. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

(Reuters) - International law firm Squire Patton Boggs said Wednesday that it has signed a cooperation agreement with a Saudi Arabia law office as it prepares to take advantage of new regulations for foreign law firms in the kingdom.

The firm said it was partnering with The Law Office of Looaye M. Al-Akkas, a 10-lawyer practice located in Riyadh. Al-Akkas will become a partner at Squire Patton Boggs.

Squire Patton Boggs' chair and global CEO Mark Ruehlmann in a statement noted Al-Akkas' membership on the board of the Saudi Bar Association, calling him a "highly respected member of the legal community."

“We are committed to being a premiere firm for companies doing business in the Kingdom and across the region and are exploring how to expand our investment in the Middle East," Ruehlmann said.

New laws set to go into effect in Saudi Arabia later this year prevent non-Saudi firms from forming affiliations with local practices but will instead allow the foreign firms to operate directly in the oil-rich kingdom.

The new requirements require foreign firms to have two representative partners who live in the country for 180 days out of the year.

Squire Patton Boggs declined to comment further on its presence in the region, pending the completion of its application for a Saudi law license.

The firm earlier this month said it had terminated a prior affiliation with another Riyadh law practice, the Khalid Al-Thebity Law Firm, as it prepared to comply with the new regulations. Greenberg Traurig shortly after announced its own agreement to work with the Khalid Al-Thebity firm.

Vinson & Elkins, which was previously affiliated with Al-Akkas, no longer lists a Saudi Arabia office on its website. A Vinson spokesperson said the firm conducted a strategic review of the association last year, and agreed with Al-Akkas that he would exit the partnership at the end of 2022.

Other global law firms including Dentons, Latham & Watkins, Herbert Smith Freehills and Clifford Chance have said they have been granted licenses to practice in Saudi Arabia.

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Jacqueline Thomsen, based in Washington, D.C., covers legal news related to policy, the courts and the legal profession. Follow her on Twitter at @jacq_thomsen and email her at jacqueline.thomsen@thomsonreuters.com.