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GAR 100 - 10th Edition

Al Tamimi & Company

01 March 2017

The firm’s founder spoke out against controversial legal reforms in the UAE that would allow imprisonment of arbitrators for bias

People in Who’s Who Legal 1

The largest independent law firm in the Middle East, Al Tamimi & Company was founded in Dubai in 1989 and now fields 330 lawyers in nine countries.

It was one of the first in the region to target international arbitration, recruiting foreign-trained specialists to pass on their know-how. Now, the firm’s lawyers can handle every part of an arbitration, including steering an award through the courts in the region.

Founding partner Essam Al Tamimi is a well-known figure in the international arbitration community and a vocal proponent of arbitration in the region. He helped spearhead the Arab Arbitration Forum, which promotes arbitration in the Middle East.

On top of that, he is a present or past member of several regional and international institutions, including the ICC Court in Paris. He has served on the LCIA court and is a former president of the LCIA’s Arab users’ council. It’s small wonder that the UAE government has asked his firm to review the country’s draft federal arbitration law.

The international arbitration practice is now headed by partner Thomas Snider in Dubai, who joined the firm in February 2017 from Greenberg Traurig in Washington, DC, and previously worked at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr.

Dubai-based former practice head Paul Turner is an ex-Clyde & Co lawyer with more than 30 years’ experience. Another name to know is senior associate John Gaffney in Abu Dhabi, who formerly worked at King & Spalding and has investment arbitration experience.

Network

The firm has 17 offices across the Middle East, including in the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Oman and, more recently, Egypt. The key offices for international arbitration are Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha. The firm also has a referral arrangement with Singaporean firm Rajah & Tann.

Who uses it?

Recent clients from the UAE include the Majid Al Futtaim and Al Rostamani retail conglomerates, the National Bank of Ras Al Khaimah, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank and Abu Dhabi Investment House. India’s Lucky Group and Swatch are also clients.

Clients from outside the UAE include Citibank, Thales, Veolia and Korean multinational Samsung. Standard Chartered Bank has been using the firm for local enforcement proceedings, as has French construction company CCI in long-running efforts to collect on an award against a Sudanese ministry.

Track record

Wins include US$11 million for a client in a dispute over the construction of a Dubai development; and €12 million for a Kuwait company in a telecoms dispute in the Ivory Coast.

A significant number of the firm’s cases settle – good results include helping a European industrial machinery maker settle a US$100 million claim for less than €20 million; and the settlement of two disputes arising out of the delivery of supplies to Afghanistan.

The firm helped one of the UAE’s largest companies prevail in a DIAC claim against the owners and developers of the iconic Palm Island project, obtaining an order of specific performance.

At his old firm Greenberg Traurig, Snider was part of a team that helped Ethiopia defeat a US$1.4 billion ICC claim brought by a Chinese company. While at WilmerHale, he also helped Swiss watchmaker Swatch win US$450 million in an arbitration against US jeweller Tiffany.

Al Tamimi & Company has also achieved enforcement in the UAE of awards rendered in Singapore, Sweden and other European countries.

Recent events

Al Tamimi & Company continues to be involved in a number of UAE construction disputes. It defended a large Abu Dhabi developer in a US$109 million dispute and secured it a US$27 million award of damages. The firm successfully defended another UAE client in a US$90 million dispute over a failed development, also obtaining damages.

Pending cases include a US$270 million dispute over the delayed completion of two towers, and an arbitration over the extension of an internationally branded hotel.

Outside construction, it has a number of pending matters relating to the banking and engineering sectors. It is acting for three banks in a multiparty dispute over alleged fraudulent claims under an insurance policy; and a large Kuwaiti bank in a claim filed by a Bahraini bank that is being heard by three former English Court of Appeal judges.

Two well-known Korean companies are using the firm in separate disputes relating to engineering projects in Qatar, one of which is being heard in Doha under the rules of the local arbitration centre, the QICCA.

The firm successfully contested the jurisdiction of a tribunal in South Africa in a dispute over a mining project in Guinea. It is also acting for a global sports channel in a dispute over the distribution of its products in Saudi Arabia.

On the personnel side, special counsel Anne K Hoffmann left the firm after three years to join Clyde & Co in Dubai. Partner and head of arbitration Thomas Snider and associate Dalal Al Houti were appointed to a task force aimed at establishing an international arbitration centre in Djibouti.

Meanwhile Essam Al-Tamimi made a public intervention in the debate over controversial changes to the UAE penal code that allow arbitrators to be imprisoned for bias. In an article published in GAR, he warned that the provisions could scare international business away and called on the UAE government to amend or repeal them.