GAR 100 - 8th Edition

Clyde & Co

Professional notice

The UK firm scored a massive win against Venezuela’s state-run oil company in late 2013

People in Who’s Who Legal:1
Pending cases as counsel:400*
Value of pending counsel work:US$40 billion
Treaty cases:6
Current arbitrator appointments:45 (of which 21 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator:11

* includes maritime and commodities cases

Originally one of the City’s big shipping firms, Clyde & Co has grown beyond those beginnings. It now does a lot of corporate work and a third of all revenue comes from overseas.

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. The LCIA has described the firm 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 frequently in front of the London courts on arbitration matters.

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.

More recently, Asia has become an area of focus. The firm formed a joint law venture in 2013 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.


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

The firm presently has 39 offices, including a string all across the United States, not to mention in São Paulo, Dar es Salaam, Jakarta, Nantes and Tripoli. Since the last edition of the GAR 100, the firm has opened up in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Newport Beach in California.

The most important offices for arbitration are in London, the Middle East (Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha) and Asia (especially in Singapore, where it has an association with joint law venture partner Clasis). It 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 and KazMunaiGas. Recently, the firm received new instructions from the Australia-listed African Petroleum Corporation in two ICSID cases against Gambia and Swala Energy in an ICC claim over a Kenyan oil venture.

Clyde & Co is rumoured to have worked on a matter for the new Libyan regime.

Track record

Since the last GAR 100, it has emerged that the firm secured US$644 million for UAE-based Gulmar Offshore in a London-seated arbitration. Gulmar bought the case and is sharing the award with its Panamanian partner Kaplan Industry. That award came out in 2013. Big news from 2014 was its successful resistance of a challenge before the England & Wales High Court against a US$40 million LCIA award won by its client U&M Mining Zambia.

Also in 2014, the firm’s Singapore arm Clyde & Co Clasis obtained a US$19.5 million DIAC award for locally listed company Banyan Tree Holdings in a dispute against an entity owned by the ruler of Dubai. The Singapore and Dubai offices then worked together to enforce it successfully before the DIFC Courts – the first time an award with no connection to the financial free zone was enforced there.

The firm was successful on the law, but not on the facts, in the important case Emirates Trading Agency v Prime Mineral Exports, where the English Commercial Court upheld a contractual obligation requiring parties to a dispute to try “friendly discussion” before beginning arbitration. Clyde & Co’s client, Emirates Trading Agency, was challenging an ICC award on jurisdiction. Though the court upheld the friendly discussion requirement, it found the obligation had in fact been met.

Looking further back in time, the firm had an oft-cited win in 2012, when partner Ben Knowles won US$200 million for Yemen’s ministry of oil and minerals in a dispute with a local oil firm. John Whittaker, meanwhile, won €45 million for Serbia a few years back in a hard-fought dispute about spy satellites.

In Dubai, Clyde & Co was the first firm to enforce an international award under the New York Convention, while in London it was on one side of Chantiers de l’Atlantique v GTT, a leading case.

Recent events

As well as marking some significant wins and gaining new offices in South Africa and the US, the firm has added several new partners: Christopher Jobson joined as managing partner of its Abu Dhabi office from Eversheds, where he was regional chairman and founding partner, and Chinese national Patrick Zheng, a former CIETAC counsel, joined as managing partner in Beijing from Clifford Chance.

Other partner hires included construction arbitration specialists Beth Cubitt in Perth (in September 2013), Eugene Tan in Singapore in April 2014, Eric Diamantis in Paris in May and Latin America-focused Brian Dunning who joined in New York in June. Keith Hutchison was promoted to the partnership in Dubai, with two others promoted to legal director in Dubai and Abu-Dhabi.

Alec Emmerson was appointed as chief executive and member of the new board of trustees for the DIFC Arbitration Institute launched in May as part of a new DIFC Dispute Resolution Authority.

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”, the firm was willing to align incentives by offering 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 adds, while 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 in the end.

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”.

Our dedicated international arbitration team has more than 200 lawyers. The group includes over 60 partners from across our network with experience of all the major arbitration rules and centres.

In 2014 we continued to strengthen and expand our practice in major arbitral centres across the globe with the hire of key laterals: Patrick Zheng, a specialist in international arbitration and China-related litigation, joined our Beijing office; Christopher Jobson, a highly regarded arbitration and litigation lawyer with 10 years' experience working across the Middle East, joined our Abu Dhabi office; and Brian Dunning, an experienced New York lawyer with a practice focused on the litigation and arbitration of international commercial disputes, joined our New York office.

Through this continual global investment we constantly build on our expertise and attract an ever increasing number of high-value, business critical instructions. Recognised by GAR as possessing “one of the largest, if not the largest, dockets of commercial disputes of any firm,” at any given time we have hundreds of arbitrations on our books with billions of dollars at stake.

We advise clients at every stage of the process – from drafting effective arbitration clauses to enforcing arbitral awards. Adept at conducting large-scale, complex arbitrations on a global scale we can swiftly mobilise teams to manage major cross-border disputes using our substantial network of international offices.

Our experience stretches across all the world’s main arbitral centres and rules including:









• Stockholm Chamber of Commerce

• UNCITRAL rules


• Swiss rules

• Lesser known rules in China, South East Asia and Eastern Europe

• Ad-hoc arbitrations

We routinely act for and against governments in investment disputes in many of the most rapidly expanding and sometimes unpredictable markets of the world. We have recognised ‘experts’ in South America, North Africa and the Middle East, Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Balkans, Russia and Ukraine.

Several of our practitioners sit as arbitrators on LCIA, DIAC, ADCCAC, UNCITRAL, SIAC and ICC arbitrations, among others. During 2014 this group sat on over 40 cases.

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