DLA Piper’s Middle East head has quit to open a Kuwait boutique with a general counsel from Carlyle for the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region.
Meysan Partners was launched by Abdul Aziz Al-Yaqout and Bader El-Jeaan, who worked for the English firm and the fund respectively, earlier this month.
The firm will based in the Gulf state where both lawyers worked for their previous employers, but it will have a regional focus. Its core practice areas will be bank finance and restructuring, capital markets, dispute resolution, M&A and project development and finance.
Currently the nascent practice has a team of five lawyers but the partners have exact expansion plans. They hope to grow the headcount of professionals to 20 by the end of the year and to establish a network of offices across the region in the next five.
Corporate partner Al-Yaquout, whose focus is M&A and restructuring, worked for DLA Piper in Germany as head of its Cologne office before moving to Kuwait in 2009 to replace David Church, who joined the firm’s board, as managing partner for the Middle East.
Senior executive officer and MENA general counsel for The Carlyle Group, El Jeaan typically handles M&A and joint ventures and project development and finance.
Kuwait’s legal market is small. DLA Piper and regional firm Al Tamimi & Company are the last remaining international firms with offices there and there are two dominant local firms, ASAR - Al Ruwayeh & Partners and Bader Saud Al-Bader & Partners.
The international firm presence in the country was halved in 2013 when both Dentons and Curtis Mallet-Prevost Colt & Mosle decided to close offices there. The lawyers of the latter, which had only entered the Gulf state the previous year, joined its association firm - the only way foreign advisers can operate in Kuwait.
There is work for lawyers in the oil-rich country, particularly in the project area. The government has an extensive multi-billion PPP (public-private partnership) programme in place with $155 billion allocated for infrastructure projects in the next five years, despite the plunge in oil prices.
At present, DLA Piper has not made a statement about its future in Kuwait.