Akin Gump hires four-strong disputes team from Gibson Dunn in Dubai

Team includes Gibson Dunn’s former Middle East disputes practice head Graham Lovett

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld has hired a team of disputes lawyers from Gibson Dunn & Crutcher to bolster its arbitration and commercial litigation practice in Dubai.

The team is led by partner Graham Lovett – who led Gibson Dunn’s Middle East disputes practice – and is accompanied by senior counsel Ryan Whelan and associates Michael Stewart and Sophia Cafoor-Camps. 

The team’s practice handles a mix of litigation and arbitration matters, with Lovett bringing with him almost three decades of disputes experience involving joint ventures, shareholders, banking and finance and fraud.

Kim Koopersmith, chair of Akin Gump, said: “Graham and the team’s international arbitration and litigation practices are exceptionally highly regarded in the Middle East and internationally. They fit perfectly into our strategic priorities in experience and geography.”

Koopersmith added that the firm is focused on further investing in its international disputes capabilities, with Lovett and his team’s arrival fitting in with its strategic commitment to continue its growth in the Middle East.

Lovett spent just over six years at Gibson Dunn, having joined from Clifford Chance where he spent more than two decades, nine years of which served as managing partner of the Magic Circle firm’s Dubai office. He has been based in the UAE for 18 years and currently chairs the Dubai International Financial Centre Legislative Committee and is a director of the Dubai International Arbitration Centre’s board.

Mahmoud Fadlallah, partner in charge of Akin Gump’s Dubai office, said: “Graham is widely recognised as one of the leading disputes lawyers in the region. By welcoming his team, we are strategically building out our disputes and investigations practices not just in the UAE and throughout the Middle East, but around the world. Our clients will benefit immensely from Graham and his team’s deep experience and skills.”

The team’s arrival boosts the firm’s United Arab Emirates team to four partners and a total of around 15 lawyers across offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Earlier this month, US peer Vinson & Elkins bolstered its commercial litigation practice in Dubai with the arrival of disputes partner Nabeel Ikram from Hogan Lovells. That came days after Vinson’s former Dubai managing partner Amir Ghaffari left the firm to start his own boutique disputes outfit, taking five Vinson lawyers with him.

In January, former Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner Dubai partner Raza Mithani also quit to launch his own specialist disputes and investigations firm in the UAE.

The departure of Lovett and his team, meanwhile, leaves Gibson Dunn with six lawyers in Dubai, according to the firm’s website. 

Earlier this month, the firm’s senior partner Barbara Becker told Law.com she was planning a trip to Dubai and was keen to grow the firm’s international offices.

Also this month, an appeal by former Gibson Dunn Dubai-based disputes partner Peter Gray, who was struck off for deliberately misleading London’s High Court, was dismissed.


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