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United Arab Emirates > The English bar > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings

Editorial

Legal market overview

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The Middle East is the nexus for many of the world’s largest construction projects, and as the project size increases so does the probability of a dispute. Indeed, aviation has been a key source of projects work, and it is a virtual certainty that any airport project in the region will result in a dispute.

As far as arbitral centres, key local players in the region include the Dubai International Arbitration Centre (DIAC) and the DIFC-LCIA in Dubai; while Dubai is still the primary hub in the region most states have their own venues, such as the Qatar International Centre for Conciliation and Arbitration (QICCA), the Saudi Centre For Commercial Arbitration (SCCA) in Riyadh and the Bahrain Chamber for Dispute Resolution (BCDR), which are mostly popular for local disputes.

The breakdown of relations between the UAE and Qatar has led to many disputes being held in alternative locations including Oman, London, and Singapore.

The UAE introduced a new arbitration law in 2018, based on the UNCITRAL Model Law, to replace a 1992 section in the Federal Civil Procedure Code. Also, in October 2018, the UAE Penal Code was amended to remove a provision applying criminal penalties for certain misdeeds by arbitrators (the insertion of Article 257 in October 2016 caused a degree of concern, with some seeking to use alternative venues to Dubai and many international law firms instructing their partners to resign as arbitrators). The same cannot be said about Qatar, where criminal convictions of three arbitrators in absentia in October 2018 has attracted a negative reaction from the global arbitration community. It remains to be seen if this will have an impact on the content of future arbitration clauses.

In a separate ecosystem, a number of Middle Eastern states have established free zones or financial centres with dedicated courts systems to govern a common law-based system. These have their own systems of professional registration, allowing English counsel (or independent barristers from Scotland, Ireland and Australia) to appear before the courts, as can lawyers based in the UAE. The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is the leading court, but the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) courts seeks to be serious competitor and the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) is also notable.

A very approachable set with no prima donna antics’, 2TG – 2 Temple Gardens handles a mix of work in London, but some members handle work regarding DIFC employment law. Lee Tyler is the senior clerk.

3 Verulam Buildings is a ‘deeply resourced commercial set with a strong international element, including banking and arbitrations’ which ‘fields a strong team of bright, capable barristers across all levels’. Its clerking team, led by Steve Penson and Stuart Pullum, ‘form solid and pragmatic relationships, understanding the pressures solicitors are under from lay clients’.

4 New Square has particular strengths in engineering and construction disputes, as well as professional negligence and regulatory matters. Senior clerk Lizzy Stewart and deputy senior clerks Dennis Peck and Alex Dolby are key practice management contacts.

Top-drawer when it comes to construction disputes,’ 4 Pump Court has ‘a stable of top-quality advocates willing to roll up their sleeves and fight their client’s corner’. Carl Wall, Stuart Gibbs, and Oliver Miney are the co-senior clerks. Former chief executive Carolyn McCombe is the head of ADR and professional standards at the set.

39 Essex Chambers’ core relevance to the Middle East is its construction arbitration workload. Lindsay Scott is the chambers’ chief executive, with co-senior clerks Alastair Davidson and Michael Kaplan notable names.

Atkin Chambers is well known as one of London’s leading construction sets, with a workload that takes its members worldwide. Key contact in the clerks’ room include director of clerking David Barnes and senior clerk Justin Wilson.

Crown Office Chambers includes a number of members instructed in construction disputes in Asia. Andy Flanagan is the senior managing clerk, with Chris Sunderland another notable clerking contact for construction matters and international arbitration.

Devereux, which among other strengths is known for employment work in London, is also active in the DIFC. Vince Plant is director of chambers.

Fountain Court Chambers is strong in international arbitration globally, handling heavyweight commercial and financial services disputes in London as well as all manner of disputes worldwide. Alex Taylor is the senior clerk.

Keating Chambersleads the Bar in terms of construction law capabilities and offering’. The set, whose members handle all manner of disputes regarding megaprojects and heavyweight real estate developments, has Declan Redmond as its CEO and Rob Cowup as its deputy senior clerk. Senior practice manager James Luxmoore is a key clerking contact for its senior juniors.

Outer Temple Chambers has an eclectic range of expertise, but it is particularly relevant in the Middle East for its expertise in litigation before free zone courts. Steve Graham is chambers director, and senior clerk Matt Sale is another key contact. The set also has offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Quadrant Chambers is best known for shipping work, which includes commodities, international trade, and insurance matters. Senior clerks Simon Slattery and Gary Ventura are the key clerking contacts.

XXIV Old Buildings is known as an elite set for chancery and commercial matters in London, and its members’ expertise has been deployed in DIFC cases and international arbitrations. Chambers director Sue Medder is a key clerking contact, as are senior practice managers Daniel Wilson, James Ladbrook, and Paul Horsfield.


Commercial

Index of tables

  1. Leading silks
  2. 2019 silks
  3. Leading juniors

Leading silks

  1. 1
    • Michael Black QC - XXIV Old BuildingsHe appears in agenda-setting DIFC cases.
    • Guy Blackwood QC - Quadrant ChambersHis practice includes commodity and insurance instructions.
    • Andrew Burns QC - DevereuxHe appears in leading DIFC employment cases.
    • Anneliese Day QC - Fountain Court ChambersHer practice includes financial and professional services cases in the DIFC.
    • Chirag Karia QC - Quadrant ChambersInstructed in international trade disputes centring on the Middle East, both as counsel and arbitrator.
    • Ali Malek QC - 3 Verulam BuildingsInstructed in arbitrations concerning nations across the Arab world.
    • Hodge Malek QC - 3 Verulam BuildingsHe has sanctions and financial crime expertise.
    • Ewan McQuater QC - 3 Verulam BuildingsOne of the best cross-examiners at the Bar today – he is devastating in action.
    • Tom Montagu-Smith QC - XXIV Old BuildingsHis work includes high-profile DIFC commercial cases.
    • Akash Nawbatt QC - DevereuxHe has a track record in employment law in free zones.
    • Rupert Reed QC - Chambers of Alan Boyle QC‘He stands out because of his unique ability to cross linguistic and cultural gaps in cases connected to the region.’
    • Rupert Reed QC - Serle CourtHe stands out because of his unique ability to cross linguistic and cultural gaps in cases connected to the region.
    • Robert-Jan Temmink QC - Quadrant ChambersHis practice includes DIFC litigation as well as arbitration.
    • Robert Thomas QC - Quadrant ChambersInstructed in shipping and commodities arbitrations.
    • Steven Thompson QC - XXIV Old BuildingsHe handles commercial disputes in free zone courts.

2019 silks

  1. 1
    • Christopher Harris QC - 3 Verulam BuildingsSharp, with the right balance between technical ability and strategic sense.

Leading juniors

  1. 1
    • Dr Ali Almihdar - Outer Temple ChambersHe has expertise in Saudi-related matters.
    • Yash Bheeroo - 3 Verulam BuildingsInstructed in challenging cases with fraud elements.
    • Benjimin Burgher - Outer Temple ChambersHe has DIFC and ADGM employment law expertise.
    • Georges Chalfoun - 3 Verulam BuildingsHe has a commercial and arbitration practice many silks would envy.
    • Timothy Chelmick - 4 New SquareHis work includes shareholder, insurance, and asset-tracing matters.
    • Jane Davies Evans - 3 Verulam BuildingsA brilliant litigator, both in preparation at examining experts in complex cases.
    • Arshad Ghaffar - XXIV Old BuildingsInvolved in both DIFC litigation and arbitration too.
    • Saima Hanif - 3 Verulam BuildingsHer work includes free zone regulatory matters.
    • Farhaz Khan - 3 Verulam BuildingsA barrister with a track record of DIFC and ADGM commercial cases.
    • Timothy Killen - 2TG – 2 Temple GardensVery clever and engaging – he knows his areas very well.
    • James Potts - 3 Verulam BuildingsHis work includes complex DIFC financial services cases.
    • Mark Wassouf - 3 Verulam BuildingsA real team player – always considered and thoughtful, even in the most stressful conditions.
    • James Weale - Chambers of Alan Boyle QC‘He handles DIFC arbitrations and civil fraud cases.’
    • James Weale - Serle CourtHe handles DIFC arbitrations and civil fraud cases.
    • Elizabeth Weaver - XXIV Old BuildingsInstructed in DIFC courts cases.

Who Represents Who

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2TG – 2 Temple Gardens’s Timothy Killen represents a former CEO of Stumpf Energy in an unpaid bonus and benefits case against his former employer in a matter heard before the Abu Dhabi Global Markets courts.

3 Verulam Buildings’s Christopher Harris and Georges Chalfoun, represented Algerian publicly owned oil and gas company Sonatrach. Jane Davies Evans represented Crescent Oil in an arbitration against the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq concerning the supply of gas. In addition, Saima Hanif handles defence work in DFSA investigations. Farhaz Khan has joined from Outer Temple Chambers.

4 New Square’s Timothy Chelmick is active in various disputes, including shareholder and insurance matters, including litigation before UAE federal free zone courts as well as arbitrations.

Devereux’s members have a track record of handling challenging employment law matters before the DIFC courts. Akash Nawbatt QC is particularly noted for handling cases concerning the system of penalties for late payments to employees under DIFC employment law.

Fountain Court Chambers’ Anneliese Day QC represented a global law firm in a professional negligence claim brought in the DIFC courts by an Middle Eastern bank, which concerned solicitors’ duties when providing commercial advice – the matter settled.

Outer Temple Chambers’ Dr Ali Almihdar is dual-qualified in both the UK and Saudi Arabia – his work includes acting as a Saudi law expert.

At Quadrant Chambers, alongside work in arbitrations concerning insurance and supply contracts (some of which involve commodities), Guy Blackwood QC represented Taurus Petroleum in an arbitral award enforcement dispute with Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Company (SOMO) concerning the state immunity of central banks of oil-producing countries, and enforcement of arbitral awards against third-party debt.

Known primarily for heavyweight Chancery litigation in London, Chambers of Alan Boyle QC handles similar matters in the DIFC courts. Rupert Reed QC is well-connected in Saudi Arabia: he represented Abdul Latif Jameel Transportation, a Saudi company, in successfully resisting an application for an anti-suit injunction brought by FedEx, concerning an arbitration over FedEx’s termination of its contract with the Saudi company in the wake of the FedEx-TNT merger.

Known primarily for heavyweight Chancery litigation in London, Serle Court handles similar matters in the DIFC courts. Rupert Reed QC is well-connected in Saudi Arabia: he represented Abdul Latif Jameel Transportation, a Saudi company, in successfully resisting an application for an anti-suit injunction brought by FedEx, concerning an arbitration over FedEx’s termination of its contract with the Saudi company in the wake of the FedEx-TNT merger.

XXIV Old Buildings has strong links to Dubai, with many of its more senior members instructed in groundbreaking DIFC cases and arbitrations. Michael Black QC and Andrew Holden successfully represented a person seeking an injunction to freeze a superyacht in connection with an English matrimonial case, while Tom Montagu-Smith QC continues to represent the Danish tax authorities in litigation against Elysium Global regarding an alleged $2bn tax reclaim fraud.


Construction

Index of tables

  1. Leading silks
  2. 2019 silks
  3. Leading juniors

Leading silks

  1. 1
    • Rachel Ansell QC - 4 Pump CourtHer work includes GCC aviation infrastructure disputes.
    • Michael Black QC - XXIV Old BuildingsArbitrator and counsel in heavyweight construction disputes.
    • Sean Brannigan QC - 4 Pump CourtHe appears in major Middle Eastern infrastructure and energy arbitrations.
    • Adam Constable QC - Keatings ChambersHis practice includes MEP works and architectural negligence cases.
    • Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC - Atkin ChambersAn efficient and professional silk; a pleasure to work with.
    • Richard Harding QC - Keatings ChambersExceptionally gifted in terms of intellect and insight in construction disputes.
    • Alexander Hickey QC - 4 Pump CourtHis practice includes DIAC construction and engineering arbitrations.
    • Simon Hughes QC - Keatings ChambersGreat with tricky clients, he rolls up his sleeves and gets involved with the team.
    • Riaz Hussain QC - Atkin ChambersBright, hardworking and personable – a team player who works well with experts.
    • Simon Lofthouse QC - Atkin ChambersHis practice includes challenging infrastructure project disputes.
    • Lord Marks QC - 4 Pump CourtHis work includes DIAC construction arbitrations.
    • Duncan McCall QC - 4 Pump CourtHis work includes railway engineering disputes.
    • Tom Montagu-Smith QC - XXIV Old BuildingsCounsel in disputes over landmark buildings in the UAE.
    • Benjamin Pilling QC - 4 Pump CourtHe has exceptional judgement in complex cases and the innate ability to seize on the point that matters.
    • Andrew Rigney QC - Crown Office ChambersHe appears in energy, infrastructure, and maritime cases in the region.
    • Marc Rowlands QC - Keatings ChambersInstructed in arbitrations in disputes over Middle Eastern investments worldwide.
    • Roger Stewart QC - 4 New SquareHe has exceptional judgement in complex cases and the innate ability to seize on the point that matters.
    • David Streatfeild-James QC - Atkin ChambersInstructed in some of the Middle East’s most sensitive disputes.
    • Marcus Taverner QC - Keatings ChambersHis practice includes cases under ICC and DIAC rules.
    • David Thomas QC - Keatings ChambersAn exceptional talent in the construction field.
    • Andrew White QC - Atkin ChambersA remarkable team leader with a calm and reassuring manner.

2019 silks

  1. 1
    • James Leabeater QC - 4 Pump CourtHe appears in GCC transport and energy infrastructure disputes.

Leading juniors

  1. 1
    • Paul Bury - Keatings ChambersHis practice includes Qatar-related disputes.
    • Timothy Chelmick - 4 New SquareHis work includes heavy infrastructure disputes.
    • Rupert Choat - Atkin ChambersA heavy hitter at the junior Bar.
    • Nicholas Collings - Atkin ChambersInstructed by Middle Eastern firms in engineering disputes.
    • Thomas Crangle - 4 Pump CourtHis work includes DIAC arbitrations.
    • Simon Crawshaw - Atkin ChambersVery responsive – he always delivers a quality work product on time.
    • Andrew Fenn - Atkin ChambersInstructed in lengthy and challenging infrastructure disputes.
    • Arshad Ghaffar - XXIV Old BuildingsHis practice includes a number of Oman-related disputes.
    • Rónán Hanna - Atkin ChambersHis work includes challenging disputes around key GCC infrastructure.
    • Calum Lamont - Keatings ChambersInstructed in a number of Qatar-related disputes.
    • Krista Lee - Keatings ChambersShe handles arbitrations for both developers and contractors.
    • Rachael O’Hagan - 39 Essex ChambersInstructed by well-known engineering companies in DIAC arbitrations.
    • Claire Packman - 4 Pump CourtBright, approachable, and quick to grasp what the issues are – a pleasure to work with.
    • Sanjay Patel - 4 Pump CourtHis work includes offshore and tower construction disputes.
    • David Sheard - Keatings ChambersHe represents major contractors in significant disputes.
    • James Thompson - Keatings ChambersAn outstanding practitioner with exceptional knowledge of construction practice in the region.
    • Jennie Wild - Keatings ChambersShe handles disputes regarding airports and industrial projects.
    • Crispin Winser - Crown Office ChambersHis practice includes disputes with Omani elements.
    • Luke Wygas - 4 Pump CourtHe brings experience as a former engineer.

Who Represents Who

Find out which law firms are representing which Construction clients in United Arab Emirates using The Legal 500's new comprehensive database of law firm/client relationships. Instantly search over 925,000 relationships, including over 83,000 Fortune 500, 46,000 FTSE350 and 13,000 DAX 30 relationships globally. Access is free for in-house lawyers, and by subscription for law firms. For more information, contact david.burgess@legal500.com.

CLICK HERE TO VISIT THE WHO REPRESENTS WHO SITE

3 Verulam Buildings’ Jane Davies Evans is instructed as leading counsel in a dispute concerning an element of a Middle Eastern airport construction project.

39 Essex Chambers has expertise in international construction disputes, and the Middle East is no exception. Rachael O’Hagan is instructed by well-known engineering companies.

4 New Square’s Roger Stewart QC handles disputes over the construction of large infrastructure projects.

4 Pump Court handles a range of engineering and construction disputes. Sean Brannigan QC and Claire Packman represent a construction company in a dispute with a government entity over the redevelopment of an airport in the GCC. Luke Wygas is appointed as an arbitrator in a dispute concerning the quality of rock extracted in the UAE in the wake of renovations to the quarry.

A ‘go-to set for counsel or arbitrators in energy and construction disputes’, Atkin Chambers is instructed in heavyweight disputes in the region, some of which cover the most visible developments and infrastructure projects in the world. Riaz Hussain QC has been instructed in disputes concerning Saudi Arabia, as well as accepting arbitral appointments. Rupert Choat is also noted for sitting as an arbitrator alongside his practice as counsel, which includes litigation in London following Middle Eastern arbitrations.

Crown Office Chambers’ members handle work concerning agenda-setting energy and infrastructure disputes. Roger Ter Haar has a track record of matters concerning energy and critical transport infrastructure.

For many ‘the leading chambers for construction work, and particularly so for cases with a Middle East element’, Keatings Chambers has members involved in some of the world’s largest construction disputes, including disputes concerning chemicals, energy infrastructure, and transport projects. Richard Harding QC is instructed in a number of cases concerning major rail and aviation projects.

XXIV Old Buildings’ Tom Montagu-Smith QC represented DIFC Investments in a dispute concerning the free zone’s centrepiece Gate Building, including appearing in the DIFC courts to resist an anti-suit injunction application brought by Brookfield Multiplex.


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