Gowling WLG's Dubai office has dedicated teams in the following key practice areas: corporate and commercial, international arbitration and construction disputes, private client services, international projects and project finance, real estate, and intellectual property. Our partners leading each practice are recognised experts in their fields and lead a team of 16 multilingual lawyers offering combined international expertise with local knowledge and influence.
Corporate and commercial
The corporate and commercial team is led by Tim Casben, who has over 20 years' experience advising on multi-jurisdictional corporate and commercial matters. Under his leadership the team advises local and international companies on a wide range of matters including:
- establishing and conducting business in the UAE
- international joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, takeovers and reorganisations
- franchise arrangements
- employment matters
- commercial contracts
- intellectual property
- raising capital on regional and overseas markets
- financial services and regulation
- debt financing
- investment funds
- private equity
Recognised work includes advising:
- a UK listed company on its investment in a Dubai-based regional bank
- a private client on the restructuring of an $85m investment in a UAE real estate project
- a regional bank on a multi $billion restructuring
- Kalahari Minerals Plc on its £650 million takeover by Taurus Minerals Limited
- a Hong Kong based institution on pre-IPO investment by way of convertible note
- numerous international entities on structuring their entry into the UAE market
- a prominent family on the restructuring of its business in collaboration with the Private Capital team
- a family office on a $246 million partial exit from an African telecoms business
- a Malaysian company on its structuring of regional entities to prepare for its listing on the Malaysian Stock Exchange
International arbitration and construction disputes
Led by James Foster, our team is ranked in the main global directories as one of the UAE's leading practices and James is consistently ranked as one of the region's leading construction dispute lawyers.
The lawyers in the team are all specialists in dispute resolution in the construction industry and, between them, share a wealth of experience and knowledge. They can provide clients with a high degree of specialism and a deep understanding of the complex legal, commercial and business issues which affect the construction industry and those who work in it.
The team has a strong focus on heavyweight domestic and international contractors and developers involved with high value infrastructure and development schemes. Our experience in the region helps our clients to avoid the pitfalls of unfamiliar legal and regulatory environments, but, where disputes do arise, we have the expertise to bring matters to a quick and cost-effective conclusion.
We have particular experience of conducting complex arbitrations under a variety of local and international procedures and we can assist at all stages, from starting the claim through to the hearing and enforcement of an award, as well as with settlement or mediation opportunities that may arise before or during the process.
Examples of projects we have been involved in include:
- Dubai International Airport
- the Dubai Metro construction project
- the Dubai Metro 2020 extension project
- Dubai Mall
- a strategic road system in Dubai
- the Abu Dhabi International Airport Midfield Terminal project
- an oil and gas production sharing contract in Al Fujeirah
- the Khalifa Stadium in Doha
- new Doha International Airport
- a rolling mill project in Oman
- a titanium smelting facility in Saudi Arabia
- an aluminium smelting project in Saudi Arabia
- a leading research centre project in Saudi Arabia
- a major regional sewage project
- a regional ship repair yard project
- a 15MW power plant in Iraq
Chambers Global 2016
"They have given helpful timely advice, have always been available to answer questions and have managed and guided us through the arbitration process diligently and seamlessly."
James Foster is "very well known in the region, very experienced and has a knack for dealing with tactical issues." He leads the firm's contentious construction team and has extensive experience advising on complex construction disputes.
Courtney Rothery is described by sources as "fantastic to work with and an extremely hard worker." She is a construction disputes specialist who has experience working with contractors and subcontractors on a number of large arbitrations in the region.
Chambers Global 2015
"They have maintained close contact with us at all times - the level of communication has been excellent, and the advice given and actions taken have been spot-on."
Dispute resolution specialist James Foster proves popular with clients, who appreciate his dedication to understanding their corporate culture. Other sources regard him as being "hugely experienced and pleasant to work with" and also note his experience as an arbitrator.
The Legal 500 Europe, Middle East and Africa 2015
The "excellent" James Foster is "dependable, thorough and sensible". Associate Courtney Rothery has "a great capacity for complex situations" and is "very professional in her approach."
Chambers Global 2014
"Their turnaround time is good. When we have issues and we feel we have a case, they analyse the whole thing and tell it to us straight. For significant opinions I'd go to them."
"We have been very impressed with the extremely detailed manner in which they undertake work. I would have no hesitation in recommending them."
James Foster heads the practice and leaves a fantastic impression with clients and peers. One source said: "He's a very good, experienced construction lawyer, and extremely good with clients. A delight to work with."
The Legal 500 Europe, Middle East and Africa 2013
"The firm is flexible, and versatile with quick responses."
"Experienced and straightforward" head of international construction James Foster has "a great understanding of construction in the UAE and practices his skill in a most professional manner."
Associate Courtney Rothery is highly regarded.
Private client services
Our private client services team is internationally renowned as a leading adviser to the world's wealthiest families and to the banks and offshore trustees who work with them.
Gowling WLG is the only international law firm with a dedicated private client services practice in the Middle East. We have developed regional estate planning tools designed to address the challenges faced by both Middle Eastern and expatriate families who have elected to manage their wealth in the region.
With offices around the world, we also have expertise in inter-generational estate planning and trust structuring for international clients. Our strong links with institutions in the offshore world - particularly the Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Switzerland, Bermuda, the Caribbean and South America - complement our onshore offering.
- family offices and sophisticated structuring and dynastic planning
- estate and succession law and international wealth structuring
- tax for individuals and trustees
- high-net-worth immigration
- residential property
From Chambers Global 2016:
"I don't think there is anything they could do better. I have always been impressed by the speed of response and the level of detail in the work."
"They bring confidence and expertise in a way that clients appreciate. They get on well and bounce ideas off each other and I really like that, it makes it a very comfortable environment and a really compelling proposition."
Awards for our international private capital team:
- Citywealth International Financial Centre Awards, 2015 - nominated as Singapore Law Firm of the Year
- nominated as London Law Firm of the Year in the Citywealth Magic Circle Awards, 2015
- winner of the Effective Legal Team award at the WealthBriefing GCC Region Awards, 2014
- the contentious trusts team won The Legal 500's Private Client Specialism of the Year Award 2014
International projects and project finance
The international projects team, based in Dubai, consists of project development and project finance specialists who have extensive experience of advising on the implementation of major projects across the GCC, wider Middle East and Africa. The team is led by partner Jonathan Brufal (international projects).
Team members have extensive experience advising on big ticket and international IPPs and IWPPs across the GCC, wider Middle East and in Africa including on ECA funded projects. We have advised:
- a Japanese led consortium in respect of the Az-Zour North 2 IWPP in Kuwait (JBIC funded)
- sponsors in respect of the development and financing of two gas-fired IPPs in Ghana and gas-fired IPPs in Tanzania, Benin and Nigeria
- the Government of South Africa and the National Treasury on its coal cogeneration and domestic gas baseload IPP programmes
- lenders (including JBIC) to a Japanese sponsor in relation to their bid for the Shuweihat S3 IPP in Abu Dhabi
Solar and renewables
We offer an in-depth understanding of major solar and renewables projects, gained through advising on numerous international solar and renewable energy mandates in the Middle East, Africa and beyond. Our experience includes advising:
- on a 25MW solar IPP in Sierra Leone - the first project of its kind in the country
- Masdar on the construction and operation aspects of the London Array offshore wind farm
- the developers in respect of the 100MW Nour Solar Project, UAE
Water and wastewater
We have an established track record of bringing water projects to successful financial close including those funded by ECAs. Our experience includes advising:
- the Acciona and GS Inima consortium as legal counsel on its bid for the Barka and Sohar IWPs in Oman
- the sponsors (Sumitomo Corporation, Malakoff International and Cadagua) in respect of the financing of the Ghubrah IWP in Oman (lenders included JBIC)
- the sponsors on the expansion of the Sur IWP in Oman; the transaction involved the restructuring and refinancing of the expansion plant
- Kuwaiti Partnership Bureau on the feasibility and structuring of the initial development of the Umm Al Hayman
- Bahrain's Ministry of Finance in relation to the procurement of the Muharraq wastewater treatment plant in Bahrain
The team has advised on numerous projects including:
- advising the arrangers in respect of an SR 1.2 billion Islamic facility to a Saudi Arabian sponsor in relation to the design, construction, commissioning, financing and operation of steel billet and pellet facilities and related infrastructure
- advising Al Wa'ab City W.L.L. on its US$1.25 billion financing of the Al Wa'ab City development in Doha, Qatar; the financing consisted of a multi-tranche conventional senior facility, an Islamic mezzanine facility and a simultaneous equity private placement
- advising (in partnership with HSBC) the sponsors, Sipchem and Hanwha Chemical of Korea, on all financing and project aspects of a Saudi-based petrochemical project; the financing consisted of funding from Saudi banks on a Shari'ah compliant basis, PIF and SIDF
The team has wide-ranging experience in the petrochemicals sector including advising:
- the investment arm of a government-owned finance institution in respect of its investment in two private petrochemical projects
- the sponsors in relation to the financing for a petrochemical project; the proposed financing consisted of funding from Saudi banks on a Shari'ah compliant basis and SIDF
- Sadara Chemical Company in respect of a petrochemical joint venture project in respect of a plant to be located within the main Sadara complex (undertaking both finance and project development work)
- the Islamic MLAs in relation to the Shari'ah compliant financing of a petrochemical project in Singapore
- the project sponsors in relation to the Shari'ah compliant financing of a biodiesel project in Hong Kong
The team regularly advises on a wide range of non-contentious construction work. Our experience includes advising:
- Sumitomo Corporation and Osaka Gas on the EPC Contract for the AZ Zour North Phase 2 IWPP in Kuwait
- Mubadala Development Company PJSC on all construction and operational aspects of the development of the landmark Abu Dhabi Financial Centre on Sowwah Island
- Urundul Energy and MHI on the EPC contract for a 500MW CCGT merchant power project in Turkey to be funded by JBIC
With 16 years of combined experience in the region, partner Andrew Thomson and senior associate Melissa Younan can provide you with specialist legal expertise to help you achieve your objectives.
Our new Middle East & Africa team offers a full real estate service including advice on:
- all forms of commercial real estate transaction
- development projects
- hospitality services
- real estate corporate and banking support
- lease advisory
UK investment advice
Our team also provides a first point of contact for clients looking to invest into the UK real estate market. The team regularly liaises with our market leading real estate specialists in the UK to ensure clients based in the Middle East region have a personal point of contact for their UK transactions.
How we help our real estate clients
Our team has a strong track record in the real estate sector in the region. The team can provide our clients with a fully integrated and multi-disciplinary service for all their real estate requirements. The team has advised numerous clients including:
- a significant Saudi-based retailer on the refinancing and eventual sale of its warehousing facilities across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the value of USD$200 million
- a significant UK-based fund with respect to its portfolio of developments in the UAE
Key facts about our firm-wide real estate group:
- our global real estate practice advised on over USD$8 billion worth of real estate investment in the last financial year
- one of the world's largest real estate practices by size and experience
- top 5 UK real estate practice by size and expertise
- real estate turnover of USD$85 million
- over 318 real estate lawyers including 91 partners
Our clients are advised on their IP matters by the exceptionally experienced Jon Parker, who is one of the most prominent trade mark specialists operating in the Middle East. He has been managing IP portfolios around the region and beyond since 2006. With a career in trade marks extending beyond 25 years, Jon is a UK registered Trade Mark and Design Attorney who spent ten years at the UK IP Office before moving into private practice in 2001.
Clients receive expert advice on all aspects of trade mark clearance, strategy, prosecution, opposition enforcement and litigation matters, including brand creation, filing and protection strategies and their implementation, including the use of the Madrid Protocol.
Jon's experience covers all industries, with particular expertise in consumer products, retail, leisure, hospitality, pharmaceuticals and luxury goods. He manages global portfolios for clients and provides the strategic management of regional and international portfolios.
The IP practice in Dubai is well placed to assist rights holders looking to protect and enforce their IP rights in the UAE and the wider Arab region. The practice also offers filing and portfolio management services for patents and designs in addition to brands in the region. The team is supported by Gowling WLG's patent team in other countries where technical input and assistance is required, such as patent drafting and technical examination reports.