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A&O powers up Middle East offices with 20-lawyer switch

Allen & Overy (A&O) is set to move 20 lawyers to the firm’s Middle East offices as part of an initiative to grow the firm’s international presence.

Six partners and 14 associates are set to relocate to the firm’s Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh offices in a move to boost A&O’s Middle East banking, corporate, real estate and capital markets offerings.

London corporate partner Andrew Schoorlemmer, along with London corporate partner Chris Thornes and London real estate partner Nick Smith, are set to move to the Dubai office.

Schoorlemmer will assume the role of corporate chief from current head Pervez Akhtar who is moving to Dubai-based investment firm Abraaj Capital as executive director.

Singapore banking partner Nicholas Crossin, along with London corporate partner Tom Levine will move to the firm’s Abu Dhabi office, while Frankfurt corporate partner Johannes Bruski will move to the firm’s Riyadh office.

The move comes as part of the firm’s strategy to significantly increase its global presence. The firm’s recently published annual report revealed that 67% of its work comes out of two or more countries.

Middle East managing partner Simon Roderick is spearheading the project.

He said: “The calibre of the partner and associates relocating underlines the opportunities that both we and the clients see here.”

The news of the moves follows a flood of relocation from the City to the Middle East after it emerged that rival firm Denton Wilde Sapte was moving a raft of associates to its Middle East offices with promises of partnership.

A&O first opened in Dubai in 1978, while the firm’s Abu Dhabi office was launched in 2007.

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Author: Emma Sadowski

Allen and Overy

The numbers look great but what do they really tell us? Read an interview with David Morley and download the report.

Download Allen & Overy's Annual Report 2008 (PDF, 2.36MB).

David Morley: I have taken on the role of senior partner from Guy Beringer at the end of eight years of great achievements for Allen & Overy. I’d like to thank Guy for his leadership of the firm during those years, a period which has seen the firm grow from some 2,750 to 5,200 people, and from 22 to 29 international locations. He leaves a firm which is successful and confident. I’d also like to welcome Wim Dejonghe as our new managing partner – the first Continental European to be elected managing partner of a firm of our scale.

This will be your first year as senior partner. What is your vision for Allen & Overy?

David Morley: I see us becoming the most successful of the emerging global elite of law firms. Those firms are beginning to set themselves apart when defined by scale, geographic reach, quality of people and concentration on high end, premium work for the largest clients. As each year passes the members of that emerging group, and what it takes to succeed in it, become clearer.

And what is your strategy for becoming the most successful law firm of the global elite?

David Morley: In a few words:

* broad international cover and deep local roots
* client trust
* motivated people
* new ideas
* responsible business practices.

What does it take to be global in that sense?

David Morley: The tree analogy best illustrates what Allen & Overy must achieve to be global: broad international cover with deep local roots.

We must be present in those locations which are the source or destination of the major international capital flows and in the financial centres that handle those flows. That is why Allen & Overy now has offices in 29 major centres in 21 countries . But we must also build deep, well-informed and well-connected local law practices in those locations which allow us to assist global and national clients alike. That is a strategy which only a handful of law firms are successfully pursuing at the highest level.

If that’s what it takes to be global, what else does it take to be part of the elite?

David Morley: It takes high levels of client trust and the most talented and motivated people, working together as one firm.

No one would disagree with that, but how does Allen & Overy achieve that?

David Morley: For both our clients and our people it is the quality of Allen & Overy’s relationships with them, and the levels of trust we establish between us, which are critical.

A relationship is personal and unique. It cannot be replicated by a competitor.

Healthy relationships lead to long-term sustainable performance for us all. We believe the foundation of an exceptional relationship is listening and understanding. Large corporate entities have a language and assumptions of their own. The same can be said of the graduates of today’s universities and law schools. We must hear what our clients and people actually say, not what we may already assume they are saying.

That’s half the battle, but we must then invest heavily in making our internal structures fit the needs and wishes of our clients and staff. Too many law firms expect the opposite: that their clients and people will adapt themselves to the law firm’s self-imposed structures.

I distinguish our structures from our values and culture, which I would like to see maintained and enhanced.

Are listening, understanding and adapting sufficient to create exceptional relationships with clients and people?

David Morley: Absolutely not. But they are a necessary foundation. In the case of clients, other aspects have to compare favourably with our competitors: our smooth management of the transaction or matter; the pragmatic, commercial but rigorous nature of our legal advice; and the clarity and simplicity of our documentation.

But isn’t it hard for the best law firms to distinguish themselves from each other in the quality of their matter management, documentation and legal advice?

David Morley: It is if we are all practising along traditional lines. The key to being distinctive lies in how actively the firm seeks out and implements new ideas. If most law firms are managing and documenting their work and delivering their legal advice in traditional ways, that creates an enormous opportunity for a firm like Allen & Overy which is innovating. We are investing significantly in fostering new ideas – with, we believe, considerable success: we have come at the top of the Financial Times innovation awards for the last two years.

With such a single-minded concentration on clients and staff, there can’t be much time left for the other interests affected by Allen & Overy.

David Morley: Both our clients and our staff have expressed very firmly their wish that Allen & Overy’s business practices are responsible. So our self-interest and our desire to act in the public interest have combined to create a virtuous circle, which we pursue under the theme “justice around the world”. These responsibilities don’t exist in a vacuum. We described in our last annual report the constituencies, identified by our staff, to whom Allen & Overy has a wider duty to act responsibly:

* our people
* our communities
* our marketplace
* our environment.

Our clients are not included among these wider stakeholders because they are at the centre of everything we do.

Global reach, client trust, motivated people, new ideas, responsible business practices…they are all ‘soft’ subjects. How can you measure whether you are successful in pursuing these core strategic ambitions?

David Morley: We said in last year’s annual report that traditional measures of law firm success, such as those based purely on profitability, were not satisfactory measures by themselves. We committed ourselves to measuring, monitoring and reporting on our performance across our organisation and to emphasising the impact of our activities, not just the cost or effort expended by us. We have worked on these commitments over the last year and this report presents some of the conclusions we have reached.

Have you set yourself any specific strategic goals?

David Morley: Yes, I have communicated a range of very specific goals for different practice areas within the firm. For example, to remain number one in the finance arena, to extend our boardroom advisory roles and to increase significantly the contribution that emerging markets and litigation work make to our revenues.

Finally, is there anything you would like to say to your clients and people now, at the beginning of your tenure as senior partner?

David Morley: I’d like to thank our clients and our staff for their strong support over the past year. That support is what has led to an outstandingly successful year for Allen & Overy . I’d also like to commit to our clients and people that we will continue to support them in every way we can.

Allen & Overy Annual Report 2008

Our fourth Annual Report tells the story of another record year for Allen & Overy. But the financial results only tell part of the story. In the report, we show other ways in which we are measuring our performance.

As well as highlighting some of our major achievements over the last year, we look at how Allen & Overy can sustain its success in the years to come.

Find out more about us...

* we invested GBP100 million in global growth over five years, with a return on investment coming after only two years
* we have over 25 lawyers in 18 of the 21 countries in which we operate
* 67 per cent of Allen & Overy's work for clients involves offices in two or more countries, and 20 per cent involves offices in five or more countries.

And the challenges we face...

* what is the best way to help emerging market countries establish capital markets?
* how can we attract individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds into the legal profession?
* how can we lower legal costs for clients?

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