The Emirati firm’s founding partner has played an active role in lobbying for arbitral reforms in the UAE
|People in Who's Who Legal||3|
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|Pending cases as counsel||30|
|Value of pending counsel work||US$620 million|
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|Current arbitrator appointments||9 (7 as chair or sole)|
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The largest independent law firm in the Middle East, Al Tamimi & Company was founded in Dubai in 1989 and now fields 350 lawyers in nine countries. It was one of the first in the region to target international arbitration, recruiting foreign-trained specialists. 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 driving force behind the promotion of arbitration in the region. He helped spearhead the Arab Arbitration Forum and has assisted with the drafting of the UAE’s new arbitration law, which entered into force in 2018.
Tamimi has been at the forefront of successful efforts to lobby the UAE authorities to reverse legal reforms that threatened the country’s reputation as an arbitral seat. In 2018, the UAE government repealed amendments to the penal code that had allowed arbitrators to be imprisoned for demonstrating bias or unfairness in the conduct of cases. In the previous year, the Dubai government also backtracked on a “locals only” rule that appeared to exclude foreign lawyers from appearing as counsel in Dubai-seated cases.
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.
The international arbitration practice was headed by ex-Clyde & Co lawyer Paul Turner until his retirement in 2017. Tom Snider, who replaced him, has particular expertise in Africa-related arbitrations and previously worked at Greenberg Traurig and Wilmer Hale.
Another name to know is senior counsel John Gaffney in Abu Dhabi, who formerly worked at King & Spalding and has investment arbitration experience.
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 Samsung. Standard Chartered Bank has been using the firm for local enforcement proceedings, as has French construction company CCI in its long-running efforts to collect on an award against a Sudanese ministry.
While the firm’s practice is centred on the Middle East, the team has worked on arbitrations seated in London, Paris, Geneva, Zurich, Singapore and Montreal.
The firm has had a number of wins in construction disputes in recent years. It secured US$11 million for a client in a dispute over a Dubai development; defended a large Abu Dhabi developer in a US$109 million dispute and secured it a US$27 million award of damages; and successfully defended another UAE client in a US$90 million dispute over a failed development, also obtaining damages.
The firm also 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.
Other wins include €12 million for a Kuwait company in a telecoms dispute in the Ivory Coast; and a defence win for a Dubai-based investment company in two related arbitrations worth US$40 million brought by Kuwaiti-based investors relating to a Dubai industrial park.
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.
Al Tamimi & Company has also achieved enforcement in the UAE of awards rendered in Singapore, Sweden and other European countries.
At his old firm, Greenberg Traurig, Snider helped Ethiopia defeat a US$1.4 billion ICC claim brought by Chinese energy company Petrotrans. While at WilmerHale, he helped Swiss watchmaker Swatch win US$450 million in an arbitration against US jeweller Tiffany in 2013.
The firm secured a win for an Asian-based hospitality company as the claimant in proceedings over a hotel in East Africa, obtaining an award for specific performance and costs.
It has been advising a European-based multinational on a potential investor-state claim against a member state of the Gulf Cooperation Council valued at approximately US$70 million.
The firm also obtained a settlement for a UAE property developer as respondent in a large construction case administered by the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The case concerned the delayed completion of twin 43-storey towers and was worth US$270 million.
In Abu Dhabi, Gaffney was promoted to senior counsel, while the Cairo office hired a new head of disputes in Egypt, partner Khaled Attia. Attia is a registered arbitrator for the Cairo Regional Centre for International Commercial Arbitration, DIAC and the LCIA and he once served as executive director of the Egyptian Competition Authority.
Jane Rahman joined the firm’s Dubai office as senior counsel from Wilmer Hale in London. Justin Ede, a senior counsel who specialised in construction arbitration, retired from the firm.