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GAR 100 - 12th Edition

Stephenson Harwood

05 April 2019

The practice is particularly strong on Africa and Asia-related work, with a lot of matters coming from the Middle East and the CIS region too

People in Who's Who Legal 1
People in Future Leaders 4
Pending cases as counsel 236
Value of pending counsel work US$9.5 billion
Treaty cases 0
Third-party funded cases 18
Current arbitrator appointments 3 (2 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 2

This firm traces its roots to 1875, when William Harwood returned to London from Hong Kong, where he had forged close ties with the bank that would become HSBC. It was one of the earliest firms to get into Asia, opening in Hong Kong in 1979 and Shanghai in 1993.

Though it’s long had a good reputation for litigation work, the firm’s stand-alone international arbitration practice group dates back to 2008 and the arrival of solicitor-advocate Louis Flannery (now QC). In the role of global head of international arbitration, he has increased the commercial arbitration caseload considerably and also led the firm into investment treaty work.

As well as serving as an arbitrator, Flannery is the co-author of a commentary on the English Arbitration Act 1996 and one of the figures behind London’s International Arbitration Charity Ball, which has raised almost £2 million for Save the Children since 2010.

Other names to note in London include Kamal Shah, who heads the Africa and India groups and recently became a member of the LCIA Court; Shai Wade, a former co-head of international arbitration at Reed Smith who also sits as arbitrator; and John Fordham, who also heads the commercial litigation practice.

The firm’s Asia practice is also picking up steam. The Singapore team is led by Timothy Cooke, a barrister with experience in energy disputes who joined in 2017. Giovanna Kwong runs the Hong Kong team. The firm also opened an office in Seoul in 2014 headed by shipping and arbitration partner Michael Kim.


For arbitration, the key office is London, with a sizeable team also found in Hong Kong. The practice also has boots on the ground in Singapore, Dubai, Paris and Seoul.

The wider firm has offices in mainland China (Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai) and in Piraeus, Greece – as well as ties with firms in Athens, Bucharest, Jakarta and Kuwait City.

It works closely with the Africa Legal Network, a group of 10 law firms in Botswana, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Who uses it?

The arbitration practice handles work in the banking, aviation, insurance, energy, construction, defence and telecoms sectors. Many of the cases have a tie with Africa or Asia. For instance, it has advised a subsidiary of India’s Vedanta Resources in a US$400 million dispute over a project in Zambia.  South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding and Indonesia’s Lippo Group are also clients.

The former majority shareholders in Yukos Oil Company instructed the firm when they sought to enforce their US$50 billion Energy Charter Treaty awards against Russia in the English courts.

States and state-owned companies that have used the firm include Egypt, India, Bolivia, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and Venezuela’s national oil and gas company PDVSA.

Track record

The firm has scored many wins when it comes to arbitration-related litigation and enforcement proceedings, for which it is considered a “go-to” firm.

It secured a precedent-setting win for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation before the UK Supreme Court in 2018, overturning a ruling that had required the state entity to provide US$100 million in security as a condition of challenging the enforcement of a US$340 million award.

A while back, partner John Fordham helped PDVSA lift a US$12 billion freezing order put on its assets by ExxonMobil. He has done the same for Bolivia, lifting a US$50 million freezing order obtained by Dutch telecoms unit ETI.

The firm also helped Costa Rican company Dowans Holding secure US$30 million in security in the English courts against Tanzanian state power company Tanesco, in support of an arbitral award that the respondent was seeking to have set aside at the seat.

Recent events

The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators has instructed the firm to represent it in UK Supreme Court proceedings. CIArb is one of a number of arbitration bodies appearing as interested parties in a dispute between UK-based Chubb Insurance and US company Halliburton. The issue in the proceedings is whether an arbitrator ought to have disclosed his involvement in overlapping insurance cases relating to the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The firm defended Mauritian company Manhattan Coffeee in an LCIA dispute with a subsidiary of Rendeavour, a major African urban land developer headed by New Zealand financier Stephen Jennings. The dispute relates to a multibillion-dollar real estate project near the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. A sole arbitrator ordered the client to pay US$17 million after upholding Rendeavour’s claims of fraudulent misrepresentation. The award has been recognised in the Mauritian courts.

Another client, Daewoo Shipbuilding, was denied permission to appeal two London Maritime Arbitrators Association awards rejecting its US$373 million claim against an offshore platform operator.

British investment group Lehram has instructed the firm for a £500 million investment treaty dispute with Russia over the seizure of a Siberian coal mine.

Barrister Duncan Bagshaw, a counsel in the London office, left in 2019 to become a partner at Howard Kennedy in London.

Client comment

In-house counsel at a Japanese company that used Stephenson Harwood for a SIAC shipping case says the firm offered a “competitive” fee and secured a victory and full costs. Partner Michelle Yong and her team in Singapore “were extremely professional, zealous, responsive and worked very well together.”

An in-house counsel at a European energy company found the firm “outstanding”, particularly for their “quick response, deep knowledge of the market and great authority in the legal issues involved.” Partner Peter Bennett in London “conducts all the trial phases with precision and appropriateness.”

Another in-house counsel at a financial services company says his company tested a number of other top law firms before engaging Stephenson Harwood, where Shai Wade impressed the company’s main shareholder with his “ability to promptly understand the situation despite its complexity and to provide a solid action plan.”

John Miles, who leads Nairobi-based practice JMiles & Co, says Stephenson Harwood represented his clients in three LCIA disputes relating to the hospitality and power industries. Wade is “extremely responsive and cost effective” as well as being “fully conscious of local issues.”



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