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Herbert Smith Freehills and Clifford Chance both axe offices in Qatar
10 February 2017
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Herbert Smith Freehills and Clifford Chance have both announced they are shutting shop in Qatar.

CC opened in Qatar in 2011 when it launched with some aplomb, citing that the 2022 World Cup would "hopefully present even further [business] opportunities". However, before a ball has been kicked by a dehydrated player in a dubiously constructed stadium, the magic circle firm has decided to leave. Its Doha office has shrunk to just one staff member: office managing partner Jason Mendens, managing, erm, just himself. Mendens will now relocate to Dubai where he'll be integrated back into office politics and the department's doughnut buying rota.

A CC spokesman told RollOnFriday that the firm no longer had "the same need for a presence on the ground" but that its Qatar practice remains a "core component" of its Middle East offering. The firm says it is still in a strong position to handle Qatar matters from its offices in the Middle East (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Casablanca, Istanbul and Riyadh) and across its network.

HSF is also shutting shop in Qatar, having opened in 2012. Herbies has been scaling back in the Middle East, having also closed its Abu Dhabi office in 2015. It now has just two offices in the region, Dubai and Saudi Arabia, with the latter opening, closing and re-opening in the space of seven years. A HSF spokeswoman told RollOnFriday that the remaining Qatar staff (two lawyers and an office manager) have been offered to relocate to other offices, including Dubai. The firm's Middle East head Zubair Mir added that the firm would continue to invest in the Middle East, and was "confident" it could "continue to provide the quality and breadth of service to our clients in Qatar" from other offices, or to put it another way "what CC said".*

  Qatar: a frontier too far, for many
 

HSF and CC are not alone to have shut office in the Middle East: Latham & Watkins, Baker Botts, and Hogan Lovells have all consolidated in the region in the last five years. The latest closures in Qatar mean that HSF and CC are no longer based in a country with questionable human rights where over a thousand migrant workers have allegedly died in World Cup stadium constructions. Although the motivation for the two firms leaving Doha may have more to do with the money drying up.

* Not Mir's words

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