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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

Clyde & Co

18 February 2016

Prolific in this area, the firm added partners and had successes against Gambia

People in Who’s Who Legal 1
Pending cases as counsel 400+
Value of pending counsel work US$46 billion
Current arbitrator appointments 27 (of which 20 are
as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 9

Originally one of the City’s big shipping firms, Clyde & Co has grown beyond those beginnings into general corporate work.

The firm has disputes in its DNA – particularly international ones. Clyde & Co has one of the largest dockets of commercial arbitration of any firm in the GAR 100 and has been described by the LCIA as its biggest single user “by a large margin”.

And while some of that is fast-paced shipping and commodities work, not all is. For example, a few years back, Clyde & Co turned up representing Yemen in one of the largest ICC arbitrations of the day (worth around US$10 billion). It also worked on one of the first large Russian oligarch cases (the TadAZ matter). In fact, about 40 per cent of its arbitration activity is more complex work. The sheer volume of cases means it’s also in front of the London courts on arbitration matters a lot.

Over the years, the practice has added relevant expertise, absorbing teams from construction law boutique Shadbolt in 2010 and from UK firm Barlow Lyde & Gilbert a year later. In 2013, the firm formed a joint law venture with Singapore firm Clasis, enabling it to provide advice on foreign and Singapore law under one roof.

There’s still one eccentricity, however. In contrast to most firms in the GAR 100, Clyde & Co partners seldom perform advocacy – they feel that using barristers is more efficient.

Network

The arbitration practice benefits from having one of the broadest networks of offices (39) and much of its work emanates from the further reaches of that network.

As well as a string of offices across the US, it has bases in São Paulo, Dar es Salaam, Jakarta, Nantes and Tripoli. The firm has also opened up in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Newport Beach in California.

The more important centres for arbitration are London, the Middle East (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Doha) and Asia (especially Singapore). Clyde & Co claims to have more lawyers registered with the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts than any other firm.

Who uses it?

Governments, trading houses, energy companies and construction firms for the most part, often from remote places. The office in Brazil is bringing in some big clients, helped by the firm’s strong links with the London insurance market.

Some named clients are the governments of Yemen and Comoros, commodities traders Glencore Xstrata, Inerco Trade, Holcim Trading, and Norilsk Nickel, and energy companies Labroy Offshore, KazMunaygaz and Swala Energy.

Track record

The big events of 2015 were the firm’s successes against the West African state of Gambia. Partner Maurice Kenton settled two ICSID arbitrations for Australia’s African Petroleum Corporation, leading the state to return exploration licences to the company. Kenton also obtained US$23 million from Gambia after winning an ICSID claim for a subsidiary of Australian mining company Astron Limited.

In 2014, the firm was successful in resisting a challenge before the England and Wales High Court against a US$40 million LCIA award won by its client U&M Mining Zambia, while its Singapore arm Clyde & Co Clasis obtained a US$19.5 million DIAC award for locally listed company Banyan Tree Holdings against an entity owned by the ruler of Dubai. The Singapore and Dubai offices then worked together to enforce the award successfully before the DIFC Courts – the first enforcement of an award with no connection to the financial free zone.

Looking further back in time, the firm secured US$644 million in 2013 for UAE-based Gulmar Offshore in a London-seated arbitration and US$200 million for Yemen’s ministry of oil and minerals in a dispute with a local oil firm in 2012.

Recent events

Clyde & Co added several new partners in 2015: Richard Power, the former co-head of international arbitration at Berwin Leighton Paisner, joined the London office and June Yeum, the former co-head of dispute resolution at Lee & Ko in Seoul, started work in the Singapore and New York offices. Other partner hires include energy disputes specialist Paul Dillon in London and Robert Scott and Alon Meyerov in Johannesburg.

The firm promoted Susie Abdel-Nabi and Nassif BouMalhab in Dubai to the partnership.

Client comment

A private equity client says Clyde & Co was “streets ahead” of the other counsel appointed to its case by co-claimants and defendants, and though “hellishly expensive”, proved willing to offer a success fee mechanism, which helped a lot in getting approval to pursue the claim.

Jonathan Hirst QC’s oral advocacy was “excellent”, the client says, while London partner Ben Knowles gave extremely good guidance on the importance of maintaining credibility: He encouraged full disclosure of a document that could have undermined the case, which earned brownie points before the tribunal.

Another investment management client said it would recommend Knowles “unreservedly” and described him as “both a very professional, and, unusually, a very practical arbitration lawyer, who knows his way around the system”.

Another client says that partner Maurice Kenton quickly established a clear basis for the company’s position, giving it confidence in the arbitration.

A state-owned construction client describes Clyde & Co is a “great firm”, especially singling out Paris-based partner David Brown for his conscientiousness and calmness under pressure.

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