Middle East lawyers leave Norton Rose Fulbright for Baker Botts

A group of 14 veteran lawyers with accumulated experience of more than a century of practice in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries -- including eight partners who specialize in a wide range of transactional and dispute matters -- joined Baker Botts LLP on July 16. The lawyers will work from firm offices in Dubai, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi.

John Lonsberg

The Middle East group -- a total of 14 lawyers and a number of support staff -- moved to the firm from Norton Rose Fulbright, formed in June of this year with the merger of two international law firms, London-based Norton Rose and Houston-based Fulbright & Jaworski. The exiting group includes John Lonsberg, who established Fulbright & Jaworski’s presence in the Middle East when he joined Fulbright in 2005 and served as the partner in charge of that firm’s Middle East practice; fellow partners Mark Bisch, Jonathan Sutcliffe, Joseph Colagiovanni, Hassan Elsayed, Richard Devine and Philip Punwar in Dubai, and Sam Eversman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

A Baker Botts spokesman says this move, along with an alliance agreement signed with the International Legal Group in Kuwait earlier this year, enhances the firm’s reputation as a significant legal force in the region and allows the firm to provide a broader range of service and capabilities to clients. This includes providing extensive counsel to foreign companies active in Kuwait and the UAE or Kuwait- and UAE-based companies active internationally.

“This team -- considered ‘go-to’ choices for any business requiring legal counsel in the Middle East -- has extensive experience in the region over a wide range of industry segments and practice areas that goes back for more than 30 years,” said Baker Botts managing partner Andrew Baker. “They are frequently referred to as ‘the region’s lawyers,’ and we are pleased to have them join the firm and our Middle East team.”

The new lawyers joining Baker Botts will focus primarily on corporate and commercial transactions, regulatory and compliance, project finance, international arbitration and dispute resolution matters, and local law across a range of industries, including energy, technology, aviation and defense, construction, hospitality and consumer products with the added dimension of anti-bribery and related corporate compliance and internal investigations.

With this move, Baker Botts now has 40 lawyers in its Middle East offices, giving it one of the largest team of any US-headquartered firm in the region. Baker Botts has more than 700 lawyers in 14 offices around the world.

The group collectively brings multiple decades of experience serving international and locally-based clients throughout the region. They are well-versed in local law and business custom and have developed long-term relationships with Middle East-based businesses and government entities.

“This group of talented and experienced lawyers will cement our position as one of the dominant legal forces in the region,” said Robert Jordan, former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia and partner in charge of the firm’s Middle East practice. “This team significantly enhances our ongoing efforts to build a broad portfolio of capabilities in the Middle East in order to help clients address the growing demand for sophisticated legal services on a wide of array of complex issues.”

Jamie Baker

Jamie Baker, International Partner for Baker Botts, said, “Over many years we have become familiar with John [Lonsberg, the former partner in charge of Norton Rose Fulbright’s Middle East practice] and several of his partners and their ability to successfully represent clients on transactions and disputes across the GCC countries. It was always clear that we share similar approaches to the practice of law. We see a lot of synergy with the group and look forward to expanding the services we can offer our collective client base.”

In an interview with OGFJ on July 11, Jamie Baker was asked about the impact that surging oil production from North American shale plays might have on Middle East oil producers. He responded, “The cost of producing oil from shale is significantly higher than producing oil from conventional reservoirs like those in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the region. Resource plays in the United States have been a game-changer, but the energy dominance of the Middle East will not go away.”

In that same interview, OGFJ asked Robert Jordan about the escalating political unrest in the region, most notably the civil war in Syria and the possibility of it spilling over into other nations in the region. His response: “We always pay attention to these events, but you find oil in some pretty rough neighborhoods around the world. People go where the oil is. We try to stay alert and resilient, but we are not overly alarmed.

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