US legal firm hires first female lawyer in Saudi

Banking expert Dr Nadia Al-Anani will lead women's office in Riyadh following recent change in legislation

A major US legal practice has hired its first female lawyer in Saudi Arabia, following a recent ruling that has permitted local women to work in the profession for the first time.

In a statement, Squire Sanders said it had appointed Dr Nadia Al-Anani as senior associate in its Riyadh office. Al-Anani, who qualified in Jordan, is a specialist in banking and regulatory issues, and will lead the firm’s newly-opened women’s lawyers section from the Saudi capital.

Since 2010 Al-Anani has been teaching law at Prince Nora and Prince Sultan Universities, and joins Squire Sanders from Hani Qurashi law firm in association with Kilpatrick Townsend.  

“We’ve been at the forefront of championing and developing female lawyers and female and family business in the Kingdom; and I’m delighted that just as we are opening our new facilities in Riyadh we can welcome Dr Nadia Al-Anani to the firm,” commented partner Kevin Connor, Squire Sanders’ co-ordinator for MENA.

Female lawyers are uncommon in Saudi Arabia, where authorities in October gave Saudi women the green light to practise the profession for the first time. Squire Sanders said it would look to hire more female lawyers as they came through the pipeline and were able to eventually practice.

Saudi Arabia’s Justice Ministry on April 8 licensed Arwa al-Hujaili, a King Abdulaziz University graduate from Jeddah, as a legal trainee, which allows her to practice law and, after a three-year apprenticeship, to become a fully licensed lawyer.

“By licensing a female lawyer, Saudi Arabia has opened up a key profession to women,” said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“But for Saudi women to practice law on anything close to an equal footing with men, they need protection from discrimination against women in the courtroom, freedom to travel and to drive, and the ability to make their own decisions about their work lives.”

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