Gibson Dunn targets Dubai growth with hire of senior corporate partner from Shearman & Sterling

Los Angeles giant says Shearman's former global co-head of corporate will help it grow its regional footprint

Marwan Elaraby Image courtesy of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher has bolstered its offering in the Gulf with the addition of a senior corporate partner in Dubai from Shearman & Sterling. 

Marwan Elaraby has joined the firm following his third stint at Shearman, where he served as global head of corporate alongside partners Lisa Brill, Lona Nallengara and Azam Aziz and also led the firm’s Dubai office. He brings a strong energy practice to his new firm and focuses on M&A, private equity and capital markets transactions. He advises issuers and underwriters on initial public offerings and bond offerings, as well as government-owned entities on strategic and regulatory matters. 

A key client at Shearman was the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, which he advised on a range of matters including strategic investments, joint ventures and the launch of its crude oil trading unit. He also worked on the 2017 IPO of its distribution unit, one of the largest public offerings in the UAE to date. 

Elaraby's spells at Shearman as an associate and later as partner in New York and the UAE were interspersed with eight years as a managing director at Egyptian private equity firm Citadel Capital (now Qalaa Holdings) in Cairo as well as a stint as executive director of investment banking at Egyptian financial services company EFG Hermes.

Commenting on his arrival, Barbara Becker, chair and managing partner of Gibson Dunn, said: “We have seen a substantial increase in demand for our legal services in the Gulf in recent years and we are responding by expanding the team with top talent. With his extensive experience, strong relationships and entrepreneurial skillset, Marwan is the right person to help us grow and optimise our footprint in the region.”

Gibson Dunn’s Dubai office is its sole location in the Middle East and focuses on regional and global multijurisdictional transactions and disputes as well as matters relating to financial and investment regulation. Its seven-lawyer team is led by partner Michael Nicklin, who also serves as co-chair of the firm’s global finance practice group. His clients include Bain Capital, Goldman Sachs and KKR. 

London-based transactions partner Hardeep Plahe joined Gibson Dunn having helped to set up Linklaters’ Dubai office and is listed on the US firm’s website as its other partner in Dubai, while the rest of the team is made up of two of counsel and three associates. 

Earlier this year, The Legal 500 directory recommended the firm in the UAE in the corporate and M&A, arbitration and international litigation, and investment fund formation and management categories and recognised Dubai of counsel Nooree Moola as a rising star. 

However, in March Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld secured a four-strong team of disputes lawyers from Gibson Dunn 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 follow a series of senior private equity hires in London.

Meantime, Shearman has almost 30 lawyers including 12 partners in its offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and its associate firm in Saudi Arabia. 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, and is also recognised for its corporate and M&A, constructions and dispute resolution work.

“After nearly 20 years in the region, I am excited to have joined Gibson Dunn at an important time in its growth in the Middle East,” Elaraby said. “Its global platform is a perfect fit for my practice, and I look forward to working alongside the firm’s lawyers to support clients in the Gulf region and beyond.”

A Shearman spokesperson confirmed Elaraby’s departure, adding: “We thank Marwan for the contribution he has made to the firm and wish him all the best for the future.” Brill, Nallengara and Aziz will continue to lead Shearman’s corporate business unit following Elraby’s move.

Last month rival US law firm Baker McKenzie announced it was establishing an interim management team in Dubai as it negotiated a split with the high-profile head of its Gulf arm, Dr Habib Al Mulla, following controversy over his anti-gay views.

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