Shearman arbitration co-heads depart with six other partners to set up disputes firm

Gaillard Banifatemi Shelbaya Disputes will open in Paris, London and New York, joint statement reveals
iew of Dome des Invalides, burial site of Napoleon Bonaparte, Paris, France, on winter morning

Paris Boris Stroujko; Shutterstock

Shearman & Sterling’s veteran global international arbitration practice heads, Emmanuel Gaillard and Yas Banifatemi, have left the firm to set up an independent disputes outfit.

The new firm – Gaillard Banifatemi Shelbaya Disputes – will initially be based in Paris, London and New York, with plans to expand into Asia in the near future. Gaillard – who founded Shearman’s arbitration practice back in 1987 – and Banifatemi will be joined by a team of six other former Shearman partners. The firm will focus solely on international arbitration and international law.

The venture was announced in a joint statement published today by Shearman and the departing partners.

Gaillard said: “I am proud to have established Shearman & Sterling’s international arbitration practice and grown it to become one of the leading practices worldwide. I now look forward to creating a global institution with a singular focus: managing international disputes in a results-oriented and innovative manner.”

The six partners joining Paris-based Gaillard and Banifatemi are Mohamed Shelbaya, Coralie Darrigade, Maude Lebois and Benjamin Siino in Paris, Ximena Herrera-Bernal in London and Daniel Reich in New York.

Abu-Dhabi-based Shearman partner Alex Bevan – who has been at the firm for more than two decades – will replace Gaillard and Banifatemi as leader of Shearman’s international arbitration practice group, with the two firms expected to cooperate regularly on select matters.

Adam Hakki, global managing partner and global head of disputes at Shearman, said: “We understand the departing partners’ desire to pursue an international arbitration-focused firm model that will give them the conflict and client selection freedom to optimally pursue their practice goals. We look forward to continuing to partner with them in appropriate cases, and we are confident that under Alex Bevan’s leadership Shearman & Sterling will remain an international arbitration force on an integrated basis and aligned with our global strategy.” 

Meanwhile, in France, M&A partner and deputy office head Guillaume Isautier succeeds Gaillard as Paris managing partner. Shearman senior partner David Beveridge said: “We will continue to support our office in Paris, with market leading corporate, M&A and disputes practices and greater focus on expanding our leveraged finance and private equity capability.” 

Gaillard and Banifatemi’s move is the latest in a series of similar ventures involving experienced arbitration lawyers in Paris, a leading arbitration centre and home to the ICC’s International Court of Arbitration, which reported a record-breaking year for cases in 2020.

Last month, Linklaters’ former co-head of arbitration, Pierre Duprey, launched ADF Avocats having left the UK magic circle firm last March, while arbitration specialist Catherine Schroeder-Paillard left Paris firm Derains & Gharavi at the end of last year to set up Schroeder Arbitration.

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