Gibson Dunn adds seven-strong team from Shearman & Sterling for Abu Dhabi launch

Hire of team including corporate and projects partner trio sees US firm double Middle East lawyer headcount

Renad Younes and Samuel Ogunlaja Images courtesy of Gibson Dunn

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher has added a seven-strong team from Shearman & Sterling including a trio of partners to launch in Abu Dhabi. 

The move move represents a major investment in the Middle East for the top 20 US firm, which currently has one other office in the region, in Dubai, that houses six lawyers. 

The new office will be led by corporate partner Renad Younes, who has arrived from Shearman alongside project development and finance partner Samuel Ogunlaja and a pair of associates for the launch. The remainder of the team from Shearman – corporate partner Jade Chu and two associates – will be based in Dubai. 

“We see tremendous opportunity [in the Middle East],” said Gibson Dunn chair and managing partner Barbara Becker, adding that Abu Dhabi’s rise as an energy and finance centre had been the impetus to set up an office there.

“We are committed to continuing to broaden our work in the United Arab Emirates and wider Middle East and investing in this through the hire of additional best-in-class lawyers, as well as through the internal promotion of talent,” she said. 

The team’s arrival comes just a few months after Marwan Elraby, global co-head of corporate at Shearman, left the firm to join Gibson Dunn in Dubai. The office, which is led by global finance co-chair Michael Nicklin, also saw the promotion of private equity lawyer Hanna Chalhoub and international arbitration lawyer Nooree Moola to the partnership earlier this month. 

Younes has joined Gibson Dunn after four years at Shearman, prior to which she was a partner at Ashurst. She advises clients on international M&A transactions and project development with a focus on the energy sector, including renewable energy and infrastructure. She also brings experience with structuring complex, regulated and market-facing global joint ventures.

Ogunlaja focuses on project development and finance in the energy and infrastructure sectors. He advises sponsors, governments, government-owned entities, and financial institutions on a range of corporate matters, including greenfield and brownfield project development, M&A, carve-outs, restructurings and capital market transactions in the Middle East and Africa regions. He spent more than 11 years at Shearman, where he made partner last July. 

Meantime Chu was at Linklaters prior to joining Shearman four years ago, where he made partner in 2021. He advises advises corporates, government entities, sponsors and financial institutions on corporate transactions, including domestic crossborder public and private M&A, joint ventures and equity capital markets transactions.

Gibson Dunn has also seen departures in the UAE, where is it recommended by The Legal 500 in the corporate and M&A, arbitration and international litigation, and investment fund formation and management categories. 

Last March, US rival Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld hired a four-strong team of disputes lawyers from the firm in Dubai, led by Middle East disputes head Graham Lovett. 

That same month Becker told she was planning a trip to Dubai and was keen to grow the firm’s international offices. Those remarks followed a series of senior private equity hires in London.

Shearman has just north of 20 lawyers including nine partners in its offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and its associate firm in Saudi Arabia following the team’s departure for Gibson Dunn. The firm is ranked Tier 1 by The Legal 500 in the UAE for its financings and energy and infrastructure M&A practice, clients of which include Dow Chemical and Bahrain Petroleum Company. It is also recognised for its corporate and M&A, constructions and dispute resolution work.

A Shearman spokesperson commented: "We can confirm Renad Younes, Jade Chu and Samuel Ogunlaja have left the firm. We are grateful for their contributions over their time with us and wish them well in their new roles. We have a strong track record in the Middle East, where we have been operating for over 50 years. We will continue to strengthen our business in the region and we have a plan in place to continue offering excellent service to our clients and advancing our growth agenda." 

Last month, German legal title Juve reported that the firm was in early merger talks with Hogan Lovells. in a deal that would create the world’s third-largest law firm revenue of around $3.6bn.  


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