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The Legal 500 Hall of Fame Icon The Legal 500 Hall of Fame highlights individuals who have received constant praise by their clients for continued excellence. The Hall of Fame highlights, to clients, the law firm partners who are at the pinnacle of the profession. In Europe, Middle East and Africa, the criteria for entry is to have been recognised by The Legal 500 as one of the elite leading lawyers for seven consecutive years. These partners are highlighted below and throughout the editorial.
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United Arab Emirates > Banking and finance > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings


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Allen & Overy LLP is ‘among the top firms’ for conventional acquisition, project and corporate finance matters, where it acts primarily for borrowers as well as some lenders. Christian Saunders in Dubai and Peter Timchur in Abu Dhabi are both ‘sound advisers banks can trust with their highest value and most complex deals’. Timchur advised Alabbar Investments on borrowing $1.65bn to buy Americana Group. Michael Diosi and senior associate Kyle Nevin are also key contacts. Bimal Desai and Ian Ingram-Johnson head the practice, which also advises First Abu Dhabi Bank and Standard Chartered.

Clifford Chance handles a range of corporate, asset and project finance matters, including deals straddling Islamic and conventional finance. Key figures include Robin Abraham and Debbie Walker, who are ‘responsive, commercial and pragmatic’; and Peter Avery and Antony Single, who is located in the Abu Dhabi office. The firm is, for some, ‘the leader for Africa-related work’, with Edmund Boyo, who recently relocated to Dubai from Frankfurt, singled out for Africa-facing mandates. The ‘impressive’ Tariq Imam has real estate finance expertise. Mark Valenzia is a key senior associate. Clients include Dubai Islamic Bank and HSBC.

Linklaters handles billion-dollar conventional and Islamic financing facilities, primarily for lenders. Kieron Zaman advised banks including Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank on a $200m and AED3bn dual-tranche syndicated loan to Majid Al Futtaim Holding, while newly promoted partner Andrew Jennens advised twelve banks on a $525m term loan to Bank Muscat. Project finance mandates included Sarosh Mewawalla’s advice to Saudi British Bank and Arab National Bank on a SAR 2.7bn financing of the King Abdullah Port project.

White & Case LLP is ‘knowledgeable, responsive and focused on putting together balanced and implementable deals’, advising both lenders and borrowers on high-value project and corporate financing deals. The Abu Dhabi-based Matthew Wood handles significant project financings and is ‘an excellent leader’. In Dubai, Claire Matheson Kirton advised International Petroleum Investment Company on a €800m revolving facility. Other clients include Cassa Depositi e Prestiti.

DLA Piper Middle East LLP is ‘very good, with excellent turnaround times’. In the project finance space, Debbie Barbour and Trevor Butcher advised Ports Development Company, the owner and developer of the King Abdullah Port project, on a SAR2.7bn facility, while newly promoted partner Keith Bullen advised Saudi Electricity Company on the financing of the Fadhili combined heat and power facility. James Iremonger, who ‘goes the extra mile to get the job done’, is noted for his restructuring expertise – he is advising the liquidators of OW Bunker. Senior legal consultant Hamed Fathinejad, who is noted for handling Iran-related work, is ‘helpful in difficult and complex negotiations’.

Dentons’ practice handles a range of conventional and Islamic project and corporate financing matters. On the Islamic finance front, Neil Cuthbert advised Ezdan Holding Group as borrower on a $460m syndicated shari’ah-compliant facility, while conventional highlights for Cuthbert included advising Mashreqbank as lead arranger on a AED305m syndicated facility provided to Nirvana Travel & Tourism. Project finance expert Udayan Mukherjee advised the joint venture owners on refinancing the ISTP2 water treatment project. Abu Dhabi-based Paul Jarvis is also recommended, as is senior associate Jane Flournoy.

Very experienced and efficient, with a number of high-quality lawyers’, Hogan Lovells (Middle East) LLP handles a range of mandates for borrowers and banks, with a particular strength in Islamic finance. Rustum Shah is ‘very experienced in the region and a pleasure to work with’; he advised Standard Chartered on $65m of term loans to Roush Pakistan. Rahail Ali advised Dubai Islamic Bank on an AED1.5bn wakala facility for a subsidiary of Nakheel. Anthony Pallett is another key contact.

Norton Rose Fulbright regularly advises banks and borrowers on project finance transactions. Matthew Escritt advised EFG Hermes as arranger on a syndicated financing of the acquisition of several offshore oil rigs, necessitating a Liberian law ship mortgage. Abu Dhabi-based Paul Mansouri advised the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) on financing the third phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid solar park. Mohammed Paracha is a name to note for shari’ah-compliant transactions. Of counsel Nicholas Robinson is also recommended.

At Afridi & Angell, ‘the partners understand the local terrain and lend their opinion on the potential implications in the less transparent areas of the law’. Senior consultant Amjad Ali Khan is ‘an authority on banking and finance’ – he and Stuart Walker advised Emirates on the sale and leaseback of five flight simulators. Bashir Ahmed is ‘a highly experienced and seasoned professional’ – he advised Damas Real Estate on a restructuring of existing loans. Masood Afridi heads the project finance side of the practice. Also recommended are Charles Laubach, who is noted for his trade finance expertise, and senior associate Vivek Agrawalla.

Al Tamimi & Company’s ‘very responsive’ banking partners handle a range of work, from project finance transaction to complex local law regulatory matters. Jody Waugh is ‘very good on local issues, with a commercial and flexible approach’: he and Mamoon Khan, divided by an ethics wall, advised banks including ICICI Bank and borrower Downtown Investment respectively on the refinancing of $110m of loans used to build a five-star hotel. Senior associate Mark Brown advises the lead arrangers on the financing of the Sweihan photovoltaic project. Divya Abrol Gambhir was promoted to partner in July 2017. On the regulatory side, clients include Agricultural Bank of China, which Rose advised on obtaining its UAE banking licence.

At Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla, Gordon Prestige advised Arab National Bank on a $200m murabaha facility provided to an investment fund. Regulatory highlights include Will Seivewright’s advice to LGT Group Foundation on its acquisition of ABN Amro’s private banking business in the Middle East and Asia, which required court approval. Practice head Mazen Boustany, who also handles regulatory work in additional to transactional matters, and Sandeep Puri are also names of note.

Clyde & Co LLP provides ‘an impeccable level of service’. Adrian Low is ‘a very knowledgeable lawyer whose response to queries is perfect’. Ian Chung, a new hire from HFW, has shipping and offshore vessel finance expertise. Sally Sfeir-Tait, who handles regulatory and fintech work from the Abu Dhabi office, ‘is always very responsive and adaptive to clients’ needs’. Also based in Abu Dhabi, Adil Hussain is a key contact for Islamic finance. Clients include ABC International Bank and Natixis. Taimur Malik was a new arrival from Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP’s Oman office in September 2018.

Hadef & Partners LLC provides ‘among the best service of any Emirati law firm, with thoughtful and commercial advice’. Alan Rodgers (‘a seasoned banking lawyer who brings gravitas to transactions’) acted alongside Valeria Lysenko as the sponsor’s UAE counsel on the Hassyan coal-fired power project. James Farn advised Emirates Development Bank on structuring credit support guarantees.

King & Spalding LLP handles various real estate and project finance deals, many of them shari’ah compliant, with a particular strength in work related to Saudi Arabia. Nabil Issa, James Stull and Michael Rainey advised BlueApple Health Service on the financing of a hospital in Abu Dhabi, using shari’ah and conventional debt tranches. Jawad Ali advised Al Qahtani Investment Company and Dalma Energy as borrowers on facilities secured over their drilling fleet. Rizwan Kanji and counsel Asal Saghari contribute further Islamic finance expertise. Robin Bayley was a new arrival from Shearman & Sterling LLP in 2019.

Shearman & Sterling LLP is particularly known for its track record in project finance mandates, although is also handles a broader range of transactions. Iain Elder, who divides his time between Abu Dhabi and London, advised Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, as part of a consortium of lenders, on a combined heat and power project in Saudi Arabia financed through conventional and ijara tranches; he is also advising The Bahrain Petroleum Company (Bapco) on its $6bn refinery renovation plan. Also recommended is Iain Goalen, who divides his time between Dubai and London and handles real estate and asset finance matters, among others. Robin Bayley is now with King & Spalding LLP.

Lender highlights for Ashurst LLP’s David Charlier included advising Kexim and Sumitomo Mitsui (among other lenders) on a $106m financing of a wind farm in Jordan. On the borrower side, Charlier advised National Container Terminals on a loan provided by Saudi British Bank for the purposes of developing a port in King Abdullah Economic City in Saudi Arabia. Brad Sandford is a senior associate to note.

At Eversheds Sutherland LLP, Clint Dempsey advises a number of lenders on a range of issues, often relating to government-owned entities and projects, and involving unusual security structures. Clients include Commercial Bank of Dubai and Standard Chartered.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s practice, headed by Haris Meyer Hanif, regularly handles acquisition finance and corporate lending matters, with a particular strength in advice to alternative lenders. Highlights included advising GC Credit Opportunities Fund II on a loan to Carbon Holdings for several petrochemical projects. The practice also has a track record handling sensitive restructuring matters. Other clients include Gulf Capital. Senior associate Mehdi Ali is also recommended.

Herbert Smith Freehills LLP handles a range of project finance mandates, including in the energy and real estate sectors. The practice is jointly headed by Anthony Ellis and Chris Skordas; Skordas recently advised Shapoorji Pallonji Group on the financing of a 50MW solar project in Egypt, and acted for Standard Chartered on a $100m syndicated murabaha facility for a public body. Other clients include BNP Paribas and a number of energy companies. Louise Shelford is a key senior associate.

Latham & Watkins LLP advises borrowers and sponsors on a range of project finance mandates. Villiers Terblanche advised Utico FZC, the sponsor of a water facility in Ras al-Khaimah, on a $150m project financing.

At Reed Smith, the team advises primarily borrowers but also lenders (including several regional banks) on project finance transactions. He also assists financial services clients with their entry into the UAE market. Vince Gordon joined HFW’s newly opened Abu Dhabi office in 2018.

Bird & Bird is particularly known for aviation finance matters; in a highlight matter, Anders Nilsson advised Emirates on the sale and leaseback of three Airbus A380s, and assisted Etihad Airways with the sale and leaseback of two A380s, utilising a shari’ah-compliant structure.

HFWprovides an extremely good service’, primarily in the asset and trade finance space. Tien Tai advised Topaz Energy and Marine on an $84m loan from HSBC to finance two newbuild vessels under construction in Germany. In the aviation space, Shyamal Jeewoolall advised Crédit Agricole on financing two ATR 72-600 airliners for Bangkok Airways. Vince Gordon joined the firm’s newly opened Abu Dhabi office in 2018 from Reed Smith.

K&L Gates’ workload covers a range of matters, primarily concerning Islamic facilities and more unusual mandates. Natalie Boyd advised QInvest on the creation of a shari’ah-compliant repurchase agreement, while Simon Mabin advised Emirates NBD Asset Management on a AED700m mudaraba facility related to its IPO of a REIT. Asset finance is also an area of expertise.

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP handles a range of shari’ah-compliant asset, corporate, acquisition and construction finance mandates. Ayman Khaleq and Victoria Mesquita Wlazo advised Noor Bank, which acted alongside a syndicate of banks, on a $230m facility to Ajman Bank via a commodity murabaha. Other clients include Dubai Islamic Bank.

At Pinsent Masons LLP, Amir Ahmad advised the trade creditors of Limitless World on its second restructuring of $1.9bn of debt. Other work concerns project and real estate financing, often utilising shari’ah-compliant structures. Noor Bank is a client.

Simmons & Simmons Middle East LLP handles a range of regulatory and transactional work in the banking space. Muneer Khan advises the Kenyan government on changes to its bank regulatory regime. Ahmed Butt regularly advises banks on shari’ah-compliant loans. Clients include HSBC.

At Stephenson Harwood, Nijoe Joseph is particularly noted for his strength in asset finance – he advised National Bank of Fujairah on refinancing eight of Atria Marine Management’s vessels. Joseph also advised ICICI Bank on an AED121m loan to Lulu Hypermarket to open a new branch in Abu Dhabi.

Watson Farley & Williams handles a range of work, including aviation and ship finance. Oliver Tebbit advised Air Arabia on financing four new Airbus A320s, and Andrew Baird advised Bank of London and the Middle East on an ijara financing of a fleet of new automated teller machines. Neale Downes contributes real estate finance expertise.

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