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The Asia Chronicles: What is a Dubai?

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[Ed. note: This post is authored by Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney of Kinney Recruiting — sponsor of the Asia Chronicles, and an ATL advertiser. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates and partners in Asia than any other firm in the past two years. You can reach them by email: asia at kinneyrecruiting dot com.]

Evan here, writing from Dubai at my suite in the Burj Al Arab, in the first week of another month-long visit this stunning city. I just finished perusing through my usual daily go to websites for industry information, such as ATL and To my surprise, just published a top 100 law firm consultants list, and named me as one of 15 recruiters, and the only Asia and Middle East focused recruiter, on the list (my shameless plug for the day). This tops off what has been another great day, here in Dubai.

Ever have one of those days when everything seems to go right? If you want to improve your chances for the perfect day, I suggest you check into the Burj Al, for pampering fit for a king. A few days ago, my wife and I checked into the smallest category of rooms at the Burj – a two story suite no less, complete with grand staircase, 6 person hot tub, two living room areas, two bathrooms (each big enough to be small hotel rooms) a fully equiped office, stunning views, and oh yes, the 24 hour butler (complete with tuxedo and coat tails), and BMW 7 and driver at your disposal.

To give you an idea of why this hotel deserves its claim of 7 star service, here is one example of many: Last night my wife and I invited over for drinks some of my associate friends from Gibson Dunn’s Dubai office (who are very happily employed, by the way, which is no surprise as the managing partner of their office is one of the most well regarded and nicest people in the business), as well as an old college buddy who happens to be in town. We met at the Sky View lounge on the 27th floor and had some drinks. After being there for about an hour, a bathroom attendant shows up to our table with a small package of breath mints. Strange, I thought, but no big deal, right?

Later, I found out that one of our guests had asked the lounge restroom attendant for a breath mint. No? No biggie. Turns out, the restroom attendant had a different take on the importance in this mint request and promptly made a call to our butler down on the 19th floor, who went down to the lobby to find some mints. Being that it was after 1am (and the middle of Ramadan) there was not much open down there, so the butler called up our suite’s chauffeur on call and the driver promptly drove off to pick up some mints from the nearby Jumeirah Beach sister hotel. The butler then gave about the nicest looking package of mints I have ever seen to the restroom attendant up in the lounge, so he could finally offer a mint to my friend.

But you have to hear about the suite, after the jump.

After an hour or so at the lounge, the group of us decided to go down to my suite. Our waiter called our butler letting him know that he overheard we were bringing guests to the suite. We were greeted by two bottles of champagnes, gratis, sitting on the expansive in-suite wet bar in chilled buckets. It was getting close to my birthday after all, and although no one mention the occasion to any Burj staff, they seemed to have been planning for it as if they were immediate family (today, on the actual birthday, my wife and I were given a gourmet birthday cake, spa services, 3 course dinner, along with a number of other small presents left in the suite).

A snapshot of what it is like to stay at the Burj Al is clearly not indicative of what it would be like to live in Dubai as an associate or partner at a major law firm. However, there is also a lot more to understanding living and working in this market than simply being made aware of a list of job openings at top US and British firms here. Considering the current state of the market in the US, many recruiting firms are suddenly proclaiming themselves to be experts on the Middle East, as well as Asia. For example, I noticed one advertisement recently where a US based recruiting firm made the claim that it is the only recruiting firm with a focus on Asia and the Middle East. Sadly, when a recruiter from the same firm earlier this year cold called a big law associate friend of mine in LA regarding Asia opportunities, she responded to his question, regarding whether she could discuss Dubai instead, with a counter question: “What is a Dubai?” Hilariously the same recruiter, only a few months later, now proclaims herself to be an expert on Dubai and is now on the prowl looking for US associates for Dubai, armed with a list of job openings, no less.

When an associate candidate for Dubai is referred to Kinney, we usually spend our initial discussions on living and working in Dubai, the practice area focuses, Islamic Finance, personalities of senior partners at various firms, the most sought after clients, and the top firms’ probable near-term, medium-term and long-term strategies in this market. Of course, just about any of the attorneys contacting us about Dubai are interested in working for top 20 US firms and magic circle British firms out here. That is a no-brainer. And, yes, we have the supposedly “exclusive” job lists too, to go along with our knowledge of which firms are interested in making opportunistic hires, regardless of whether they have a “need.”

Robert and I have been asked repeatedly by Asia Chronicles readers to write about Dubai and the Middle East. Thus, we will start explaining “what is a Dubai” over a series of new posts. Although I have the good fortune to be staying at Burj Al, Al Qasr and the new Atlantis over the next few weeks, while I wait for my apartment in Marina (a popular high rise residential area of Dubai) to be ready, we will not be writing any more about fancy hotels. Having a snap shot of the Burj Al, the region’s most recognizable symbol, is just a fun way to start writing about Dubai.

Just as with the Asia markets, as well as Moscow, we are on the ground quite often in Dubai. At the conclusion of Ramadan and Eid (where most US lawyers in Dubai run off for a few days on some Middle East adventure a short flight away), I plan to meet for the third time this year with senior partners of such Dubai and / or Abu Dhabi firms as Latham, Shearman, Gibson Dunn, Linklaters, Baker Botts, King & Spalding, Chadbourne, Bracewell, A&O, Clifford Chance, and others. Yes, another market report is forthcoming, this time on Dubai and Middle East. While you sit on the edge of your seat waiting for our Middle East market report, we will provide another few posts on living and working in Dubai.

Earlier: Prior installments of the Asia Chronicles (scroll down)

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The Asia Chronicles are sponsored by Kinney Recruiting. You can reach them by email: asia at kinneyrecruiting dot com.

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