Ex-Vinson Dubai managing partner launches disputes boutique with five-strong team

Ghaffari Partners to target international arbitration and dispute resolution work across Middle East and North Africa
Portrait of Amir Ghaffari

Amir Ghaffari

Vinson & Elkins’ former Dubai managing partner, Amir Ghaffari, has left the firm with a five-strong team to launch his own disputes practice.

Ghaffari Partners will focus on high-end international arbitration and dispute resolution work across the Middle East and North Africa region, with a primarily corporate client base. 

Ghaffari takes the role of principal, working alongside counsel Zoya Bozhko and Emily Beirne, associate Louise Willneff plus senior case manager Laura Roberts and director of administration Leanne Stephen.

Ghaffari has spent more than seven years as a partner at Vinson, which he joined in London from Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) legacy firm Berwin Leighton Paisner before relocating to Dubai in 2017, where he served as Middle East head of disputes, in addition to his office management responsibilities. He left the firm in December.

Ghaffari is qualified as a solicitor-advocate in England and Wales and as an advocate of the DIFC Courts in the UAE. He has worked in London, Dubai and Paris, acting as counsel in more than 100 international commercial arbitrations across all the major arbitral institutions.

With a broad commercial practice, he also specialises in construction arbitrations, with particular experience in large, complex and high-value infrastructure, energy and construction disputes. Clients include main contractors, project owners and developers, EPC and EPCM contractors, architects and engineers, major equipment suppliers, insurers and subcontractors.

He regularly appeared as an advocate before the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts of First Instance and Appeal and as counsel before the former DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Centre and other regional institutions, in addition to his London and Paris disputes experience.

Ghaffari also acts as an arbitrator, with more than 30 ICC, LCIA and DIFC-LCIA appointments under his belt. He has been active in the London Court of International Arbitration, as a former chair of its Young Members Group, as well as with the ICC. 

He is a member by-invitation of the DIFC Court’s arbitration working group, at a time when Dubai’s arbitral institutions are undergoing a period of considerable reform and change. 

Ghaffari said: “Over the years, my team and I have advised on some of the most complex international disputes, and we pride ourselves on excellence and attention to detail. This new venture offers us a chance to build a new model for legal service delivery.”

Ghaffari said the new firm would “structure our working practices, talent and technologies around the needs of our clients,” in delivering agility and innovation that he said was “difficult to deliver in big law” alongside high-quality client service.

He concluded: “[Clients] are also increasingly seeking firms that are conflict-free and offer greater flexibility on pricing. We can deliver on each of those promises.”

Last month, a former Dubai-based BCLP partner, Raza Mithani, launched his own specialist disputes and investigations firm, Conselis Law, and in June 2020 former Clyde & Co construction partner Mat Heywood opened the Abu Dhabi-based dispute resolution boutique Mantle Law, which subsequently set up a London office last November.

Vinson & Elkins, meanwhile, is understood to be looking to invest in its Dubai arm. Last October the Houston-based firm secured London-based partners Roberta Downey and Angus Rankin from Hogan Lovells. The construction and energy infrastructure lawyers have acted on major projects, including in the UK, Latin America and the Middle East. 

In December, it closed its Hong Kong office having pulled out of Beijing earlier in the year

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