Named partner and leader of the Riyadh outfit, Al Khiliwi, will join HFW’s partnership as part of the agreement, subject to authorisation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. HFW insurance partner John Barlow, who splits his time between Riyadh and Dubai, is set to relocate full-time to the new office
For HFW, the association ties into a wider push to align the firm’s Middle East practice with its six global sector lines: aerospace, commodities, construction, energy and resources, insurance and shipping.
Richard Gimblett, head of HFW’s Dubai office, told Legal Business: ‘We know Mohammed from previous dealings so we know he’s a quality lawyer. He has a practice with a heavy dispute resolution focus, too, which perfectly aligns with what we do.’
Richard Crump, HFW’s senior partner, described the region as a ‘priority’ for each of the firm’s sectors, and said the Middle East ‘is fast becoming a major centre for international dispute resolution, which is a key part of our practice globally.’
Al Khiliwi’s arrival builds on an acquisitive 2018 for HFW, with the firm adding 24 new partners across Abu Dhabi, Brussels, Dubai, Hong Kong, Houston, London and Rio de Janeiro.
HFW was particularly expansive in the Middle East last year, most notably in the hire of Reed Smith’s managing partner for the region, Vince Gordon. Corporate partner Tania de Swart followed Gordon from Reed Smith to HFW.
The firm then strengthened the newly-opened Abu Dhabi outpost in November by hiring former Bird & Bird defence and infrastructure partner Richard Lucas to lead the office.
Throughout 2018 HFW also made key hires in Singapore, London and the USA. The firm also broke new ground by launching a standalone consultancy arm, branded HFW Consulting.
At a time when other firms, such as Herbert Smith Freehills, Clifford Chance and Latham & Watkins, have scaled back in the Middle East, HFW’s continued growth in the region comes amid robust overall performance. The firm’s revenue for the 2017/18 financial year was up 8% to £179.1m, thanks in part to its international offices accounting for 60% of overall turnover, up from 55% the previous year.
Gimblett added: ‘If you don’t have a sector focus in the Middle East then investment becomes a lot more speculative, it’s a difficult market out here at the moment. It’s a much more mature market too, so you need to offer something special.’