Partner leaves Clyde & Co to open Abu Dhabi construction disputes boutique

Mantle Law sets out to offer 'fleet-of-foot' support for sector facing challenging economic headwinds
Matt Heywood

Mat Heywood: 'The use of innovation and technology to achieve results, better and faster, is in our blood'

Former Clyde & Co construction partner Mat Heywood has left the firm to open an Abu Dhabi dispute resolution boutique.

Mantle Law will focus on construction and infrastructure disputes in a regional market that will see $2.5trn worth of projects completed by 2030.

The legal team comprises Heywood, two senior associates and a legal executive with support from UK-based managed services provider Kindleworth, which specialises in providing back office services for ‘new entrant law firms’ covering strategy, finance, HR, technology and compliance.

The practice will target arbitration work — the preferred dispute resolution option for many international construction companies and state-owned enterprises across the United Arab Emirates — although it will also offer litigation, expert determination, adjudication and mediation services.

The move sees Heywood part company with one of the largest international law firms in the Middle East — Clyde & Co has 45 partners located regionally and last year celebrated  its 30th anniversary in the region, having advised on projects including the Burj Khalifa, Burj al Arab, Doha Airport and Dubai International Airport.

Heywood said he aimed to provide “the most fleet-of-foot, optimised and effective legal support to our clients, who are increasingly under pressure to deliver more with less” given the impact of Covid-19 and some of the most challenging economic headwinds in decades.

He added: “Plus, we are born in 2020 and embedded in the world of now, so the use of innovation and technology to achieve results, better and faster, is in our blood. There’s no digital transformation for us to adopt. We’re ready to take on our clients’ biggest challenges right now.”

Construction cases made up 37.5% of the caseload at the Dubai-based DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Centre, one of the region’s fastest-growing arbitration centres, according to a report issued at Dubai Arbitration Week in November 2019.

Abu Dhabi’s own Abu Dhabi Global Market (AGDM) courts and arbitration centre have seen similar trends; to further capitalise on them, the AGDM announced reforms, enacted at the end of May, to enhance and strengthen the ADGM’s dispute resolution framework.

Heywood’s experience reflects the span of projects undertaken in the UAE, from airports, ports and power generation to pipelines, roads, hospitals and commercial premises; he joined Clyde & Co in 2017, having previously headed up the construction disputes group at Osborne Clarke in London. Prior to that, he spent five years in Dubai working for Pinsent Masons.

Last week, in an update to investors in which it announced the departure of its longstanding chief executive Andrew Leaitherland, DWF said its Middle East business had 'materially underperformed' in the face of Covid-19. 

In January, Winston & Strawn announced the closure of its Dubai office, less than four years after launching in the Middle East.

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