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Legal market overview

The UAE’s economy continues to be shaped by developments in energy, oil and gas. The government’s ambitious renewable energy targets for 2020 could see more than $50bn worth of investment made in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) solar power sector by 2020. Several large projects, notably in the petrochemicals sector, are now underway, which is also helping to drive economic activity. However, governments, financial institutions and corporates across the Gulf region have had to adapt to the fall in oil prices and subsequent drops in revenue. This has reshaped M&A activity, with local investors increasingly looking to the wider region and beyond – especially to Africa – for investment opportunities.

The UAE legal market is highly competitive and hosts many international law firms. There were new arrivals to Abu Dhabi, including Fichte & Co. opening an office there in November 2016. Other significant recent developments include Mayer Brown hiring corporate and securities partners from Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla and opening its Dubai office in 2016, while Hogan Lovells (Middle East) LLP recruited Charles Fuller, Andrew Tarbuck and Anthony Pallett from Latham & Watkins LLP in November 2015. Law firms are also expanding into new practice areas. The growing role of the Middle East as a hub of international trade combined with the gradual opening of the Iranian market has prompted several law firms to establish corporate and financial institutions investigations practices, which are advising on sanctions-related issues.

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