Dubai: Canadian law firm Bennett Jones announced the opening of its first office in the Gulf region Tuesday. Located in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the firm is the first Canadian law firm licensed to practice in the UAE.

"We are delighted to be licensed in Dubai and to establish our practice in the UAE so that we can better serve our clients in the region," said Hugh MacKinnon, Chairman and CEO.

The law firm, which represents top-name clients in the Middle East like Research in Motion (RIM), is experienced in key areas such as corporate law and energy, oil and gas, commercial transactions, infrastructure and project development, foreign investment and finance.

Strongest priorities

Expanding into the region had been one of the firm's strongest priorities, said Dany Assaf, lawyer and Middle East managing partner at Bennett Jones.

"It's not just about strictly legal advice," Assaf said. "It's also about being able to provide people with guidance on how to get business done."

Even though there are greater issues between the two countries, such business set-ups will play the role of the bridge between businesspeople on both sides, according to Assaf. "This is going to open doors for sure."

The firm is looking at building strong ties throughout the Gulf region. "Having strong partnerships and relationships with local businesspeople is the best way to get informed about a market and get plugged into a market," Assaf said.

"We're looking to strengthen all these ties on all levels with government, businesspeople and to become part of the community. We don't want to be viewed as foreigners."

David Dodge, a senior business adviser to Bennett Jones and former Governor of the Bank of Canada, was recently appointed to the new UAE Central Bank International Advisory Council based in Abu Dhabi.