Firm Profile > Stephenson Harwood > Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Stephenson Harwood
United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates > Employment Tier 2

Stephenson Harwood's employment and pensions practice has 'in-depth knowledge' of the UAE and wider Middle East markets. The practice covers all areas of contentious and non-contentious UAE employment law, DIFC/ADGM employment law and free zone regulations. Key areas of strength include employee benefits and incentives, pensions, data protection and privacy. The 'extremely experienced' Kiersten Lucas leads the team and is supported by  senior associate Emily Aryeetey. Associate Laura Anderson is also a key individual in the team.

Practice head(s):

Kiersten Lucas

Other key lawyers:

Emily Aryeetey; Laura Anderson


‘Unlike many other firms in the Middle East region, their team is fully dedicated to dealing with specific employment, pensions and incentives work as well as wider employment-related services such as data protection. This shows by their in-depth knowledge that each team member has of the legal issues within UAE and wider markets in the Middle East.’

‘Kiersten Lucas always impresses when it comes to legal issues relating to employment, pensions and incentives, and providing practical, bespoke advice that meets our commercial needs. She leads by example and that really shows by the highly talented members she recruits within her team (including Emily Aryeetey and Laura Anderson).’

‘Kiersten Lucas is constantly one step ahead of the game. This is clearly demonstrated by how much of a leading authority she is in relation to new legal developments such as the DIFC DEWS Scheme, new discrimination provisions, additional paternity and maternity rights, settlement agreements and changes to the penalty regime under DIFC Employment Law, Law No. 2 of 2019. I constantly see her providing training to other lawyers and HR practitioners in the region on such issues with the DIFC Training Academy.’

‘I always feel that Senior Partner Kiersten Lucas takes an interest in us as individuals as well as a firm. She has a genuine interest in not only the success of our firm but spends time getting to know us on a personal level’

‘The team stands out because it harnesses years of experience and recognition in the UK with a long-standing presence in Dubai. The team is equally adept at handling DIFC and onshore litigation. They have a number of fluent Arabic lawyers within the team. Kiersten Lucas is an extremely experienced partner and also a published author in the burgeoning area of employee competition.’

‘Emily Aryeetey is a highly trusted advisor to a raft of leading businesses in the region.

Strengths: A great all-rounder firm; able to combine advisory work with heavy litigation. Key capabilities: Standout HR experience combined with the language / local cultural expertise of a number of their associates.’

‘Kiersten Lucas – miles ahead of the field in terms of experience and technical knowledge. She has literally written the book on employee competition (with Selwyn Bloch QC and Kate Brearley).’

Emily Aryeetey – a rising star. Extremely confident and capable advisor. Able to explain very complicated legal terms in straight-forward, practical and common-sense speak.’

Key clients

Atlas Mara Banking Group

Bank of China

Access Hire

Al Tayer Group

TMF Group

Al Dahra Group

Range Developments Group

Edenhurst Capital

AES International

LGT Group

Property Finder

Sentinel Commodities DMCC

Axiom SL Group, Inc


Mizuho Banking Group

Cigna Insurance Middle East

LOC Group (London Offshore Consultants)

Accord Healthcare MENA

Marsh Emirates Insurance Brokerage


Hanover Communications


Robert Walters

Tricon International

M&C Saatchi

Hamburg Sud

United Arab Emirates > Shipping Tier 2

James Willn now spearheads the arbitration practice at Stephenson Harwood. Supported by Mark Lakin, a key senior associate for contentious shipping and commodities work, Willn handles a range of international disputes covering subject matters ranging from salvage through to vessel collisions. On the non-contentious side of the practice Nijoe Joseph is a notable contact for ship finance work, with a track record of connections with banks in India and beyond. A number of instructions demonstrate connections in Iraq, and also across Africa. Rovine Chandrasekera is now primarily based in London but continues to focus on work in the region.

Practice head(s):

James Willn

Other key lawyers:

Nijoe Joseph; Mark Lakin; Rovine Chandrasekera


‘Stephenson Harwood is unique because of its enthusiasm to support its client. Their team includes young lawyers who are well educated and knowledgeable.’

‘Mark Lakin is responsive.’

Key clients

Aggregates Manufacturing Trading FZE

Drydocks World – Dubai.

Sahara Energy Resource Ltd

Svitzer Salvage BV

Canopius Global Specialty (Re)insurance

West of England (Hellas) Limited


Steamship Insurance Management Services Limited

Petrogat FZE

National Bank of Fujairah

Marsh Emirates Insurance Brokerage

Bahrain Marine Contracting


United Arab Emirates > Dispute resolution: arbitration and international litigation Tier 3

Stephenson Harwood continues to be instructed in a broad range of disputes, with international arbitration in both the firm's core marine and insurance related areas of expertise notable. The firm is also active in insurance and asset tracing, where it has a track record of activity across the region. James Willn leads many of the firm's key mandates, with Nick Sharratt's expertise also crossing over with investigations. Rovine Chandrasekera, previously the firm's Dubai managing partner, has returned to London but continues his involvement in UAE-related work,

Practice head(s):

James Willn

Other key lawyers:

Nick Sharratt; Michael Hartley


‘Highly experienced with different international arbitration rules and systems. Very strategic: every play is carefully thought through and is aimed at achieving the end goal.’

‘James Willn is bright and excellent at devising the overall strategy. Michael Hartley is very hard-working and on top of the detail in the way that is necessary for the larger high value arbitrations.’

‘The disputes team are a very friendly yet dynamic and diverse bunch. I always look forward to work with them whenever the chance arises.’

‘Michael Hartley has a keen eye for detail and is a hard working and committed individual. As an expert it is always good to work with a professional lawyer such as Michael as you know you’re in good hands.

‘James Willn heads up an excellent team and instils his own high standards into them. James cuts through the background noise and gets straight to the main issues at hand. ’

‘The practice displays a unique combination of technical legal excellence with genuine commercial understanding of our business (including a deep appreciation of our own internal complexities), and which really makes them a valued adviser. I also have the confidence that I can engage with them on any legal topic and they will find an appropriate home for that enquiry within their organization with great speed. ’

‘Nick Sharratt is exceptional and a pleasure to work with – he is readily available, incredibly committed, and navigates complex legal/commercial issues with ease. We greatly value his support, not just in his own field, but as a trusted advisor across our business.’

‘We principally work with James Willn, who is an excellent litigator. Sharp, responsive, commercial – always available.’

‘Very strong leadership skills, with a commercial and client focus.’

‘Nicholas Sharratt is particularly excellent. He is dynamic, a great leader and a real hit with clients.’

United Arab Emirates > Banking and finance: Corporate finance (including Islamic lending) Tier 4

Stephenson Harwood's expertise spans aviation, shipping, energy, infrastructure, real estate and high net worth individuals/finance houses. Its key areas of activity include acquisition finance, project finance, asset finance, Islamic finance and general bank lending. Practice head Nijoe Joseph is an 'excellent lawyer'.

Practice head(s):

Nijoe Joseph


‘Over the past years working with Nijoe and his team , our experiences were stupendous through and through. The legal team know their craft and walk the extra mile for you. We have worked with the banking and finance team on a number of regulatory projects, such as data protection and consulted several corporate legal matters, and each one of them was handled with utmost care and professionalism, especially the impressive training Nijoe and his team have delivered, bravo! Highly recommended.’

‘Nijoe is an excellent lawyer who is always a phone call away for his client. He explained the law in clear language and outlined the steps that need to be performed in the process. His work is reassuring, clear, knowledgeable and effective. Over the years, we have worked with Nijoe and his banking/finance team. Not only do they do an excellent job every time, but they often surpass others by providing practical advice to protect the best interests of the bank. I strongly recommend Nijoe to anyone who needs sound legal advice.’

Key clients

Axis Bank Limited

ICICI Bank Limited

Gulf Petrochem

Standard Chartered Bank

Commercial Bank of Dubai PSC

China Construction Bank

Falcon Aviation

BNP Paribas

Simatech Shipping

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China

Fugro Middle East

Emirates NBD Bank PJSC

National Bank of Fujairah

United Arab Emirates > Construction Tier 4

At Stephenson HarwoodJames Willn  and senior associate Michael Hartley  are key contacts for construction work. Crossing over with the firm's expertise in marine matters such as shipbuilding and offshore construction, he is active in disputes surrounding energy and natural resources projects. Rovine Chandrasekera is now based in London.

Practice head(s):

James Willn

Other key lawyers:

Michael Hartley


The team provides a high degree of strategic thinking, focussed on the client’s goals. The lawyers tasked with running the case are particularly experienced, rather than needing lots of guidance from partners and Counsel.’

‘James Willn is excellent at managing the team and controlling costs, without needing to interfere in every aspect of the detail. Michael Hartley is very experienced, calm and self-confident and on top of every detail.’

‘The team are very pragmatic and adopt a clear and no-nonsense approach’

‘James Willn is very approachable and easy to work with. Having worked with James on various occasions he has demonstrated that he can grasp complex and challenging issues are quickly distil them into a simple strategy.’

‘Michael Hartley has consistently proven to be a committed lawyer with a keen eye for detail. Michael is relentless in his pursuit for consistency and simplicity. An all round good lawyer.’

United Arab Emirates > Infrastructure and projects (including project finance) Tier 4

Stephenson Harwood displays strong cross-border capabilities and advises on energy and infrastructure projects in the UAE, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. Sean Angle, Salem Chalabi and Toufic Safie are noted.

United Arab Emirates > Commercial, corporate and M&A Tier 5

At Stephenson Harwood, Diwakar Agarwal handles cross-border M&A and joint ventures, covering professional services, education and health, among other industries. Sandeep Dhama is also involved in key deals, and practice head Sean Angle  is notable for corporate and commercial work, including restructurings, franchising and corporate governance matters. Some deals involve family offices.

Practice head(s):

Sean Angle

Other key lawyers:

Sandeep Dhama; Diwakar Agarwal


‘Their understanding of both the commercial needs of a business, and how to handle entrepreneurs and corporate executive is excellent. Their knowledge of and practice of the law in the region is clearly outstanding.’

Key clients

Abraaj Global Credit Managers

A.J.D. Fitness (F45)

Shareholders of Al Dahra Group

Inspired Education

KIMS Healthcare

Knowcross Limited

Eddyfi Technologies

Esyasoft Technologies


Livio AB

Cleartrip Inc


Zhongman Petroleum and Natural Gas Group

Grabba International DMCC

BRP Bizzozero & Partners SA

Iraq > Leading firms Tier 1

The Dubai-based offering at Stephenson Harwood is particularly well known for advising on market entry, IPOs and IPP projects that impact the power sector. The team also handle asset and structured finance issues where Nijoe Joseph maintains a focus on the trade, maritime and aviation sectors. The team is led by Salem Chalabi.