Simmons & Simmons has closed its office in Abu Dhabi and has decided to “consolidate its offering in the UAE.” The firm will advise clients in the Middle East through its Dubai office, its biggest in the region.
According to a statement, the firm’s Abu Dhabi based partners will relocate to its Dubai and UK offices. “We will also identify and speak to the clients who have been working with Simmons & Simmons in Abu Dhabi to ensure their needs are covered,” the statement said.
Simmons’ exit is the latest among a wave of firms to shut shop in Abu Dhabi as low oil prices put a damper on business.
It follows Latham & Watkins, Baker Botts and Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) in announcing plans to close offices in Abu Dhabi over the past 12 months. Latham & Watkins also closed its Doha office.
Many international law firms had piled into the capital in the past five years, hoping to bag lucrative contracts linked to the government, in particular the energy sector and the launch of a new financial free zone. "That hasn't happened as planned and adding to that is the uncertain times we are in now with oil prices around $30," said a source familiar with the matter.
The retreat underscores growing pressure on international law firms for billable hours, prompting a review of their need to have a presence in the capital. Abu Dhabi has cut back or slowed spending on non-essential projects and has lifted subsidies on petrol to ease finances as state revenues decline due to cheap oil. The International Monetary Fund has cut its growth forecast for the UAE to 2.6 percent in 2016.
Abu Dhabi is more reliant on the energy sector and government contracts, whereas Dubai has a more diversified economy propelled by a larger private sector.
Apart from Dubai, Simmons has an office in Qatar and operates through an alliance with Hammad & Al-Mehdar in Saudi Arabia.