The Middle East Legal Award 2021 winners were announced on Thursday, recognising the achievements of law firms and in-house teams with a Middle Eastern presence.
This year, Law.com International introduced three major new categories targeted at the region’s developing areas of diversity and, in these testing times, crisis management. The new awards include Diversity Initiative of the Year, Crisis Management Initiative of the Year, and Diversity Champion of the Year.
Here is a run-down of all the winners and why they won.
Arbitration Team of the Year
Shortlisted firms: Baker McKenzie, BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates, Charles Russell
Speechlys, Clyde & Co, Hadef & Partners, Hage-Chahine Law Firm, Norton Rose Fulbright, Stephenson Harwood
Highly commended: Norton Rose Fulbright
Winner: Hage-Chahine Law Firm
This winner was praised for its work on an enforcement of a $1.3 billion award in France, which it secured by way of what a judge described as “an excellent legal strategy with strong legal expertise despite complex legal challenges brought to a successful outcome”.
Banking, Finance and Restructuring Team of the Year
Shortlisted firms: Baker McKenzie, Clyde & Co, Dechert, ElSherif Law Firm & Consultants, PwC Legal Middle East
Highly commended: Baker McKenzie
Winner: PwC Legal Middle East
This year’s winning team demonstrated excellence in establishing an open banking system, and leveraging legal, technical and compliance expertise.
Championing Diversity (Private Practice)
Shortlisted firms: Adjou Ait Ben Idir, Norton Rose Fulbright, Nasser Ali Khasawneh, Eversheds
Sutherland, Mahmoud Fadlallah, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Kiran Scarr, Support Legal Limited, Hazel Shakur Quinn, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner
Highly commended: Hazel Shakur Quinn, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner
Winner: Kiran Scarr, Support Legal Limited
Judges said the “impressive work, leadership and inspiration in leading a disruptive business that is based on diversity and inclusion” shown by this year’s winner made their decision that bit easier.
Championing Diversity (In-House)
Shortlisted firms: Hassan Bouadar, FedEx Express, Yosr Hamza, Gartner
Winner: Hassan Bouadar, FedEx Express
Judges said that the winning individual showed clear evidence of how they contributed to driving D&I initiatives at their company and showed an understanding of the needs of the wider community.
Compliance Innovator of the Year – sponsored by BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates
Shortlisted firms: Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), Ministry of Transport and Communications / Cyber Security Division, Schindler, SEDCO Holding, TAQA
Highly commended: Schindler
Our next winner embarked on what our judges called an “ambitious project to take an often-ignored “tick-box” compliance document to ensure it engages with its intended audience through the use of accessible yet innovative technology and planned launch for a global organisation”.
Construction Team of the Year
Shortlisted firms: Charles Russell Speechlys, Hage-Chahine Law Firm, Khoshaim &
Associates, Pinsent Masons
Highly commended: Charles Russell Speechlys
Winner: Pinsent Masons
2021’s construction team of the year demonstrated cutting edge expertise on a complex, widely publicised and very high profile deal involving Doha’s new and widely lauded rapid transit system, the Doha Metro.
Corporate Team of the Year
Highly commended: Milbank
For its work on a more than $20 billion deal, the judges praised the winning firm for its superb work that highlighted how its teams in the UAE, combined with its global presence and expertise, saw it deliver a complex and time sensitive investment project, made even more impressive by the client coming back for more.
Crisis Management Team of the Year
Shortlisted firms: Badri and Salim El Meouchi Law Firm, Norton Rose Fulbright
Highly commended: Badri and Salim El Meouchi Law Firm
Norton Rose Fulbright took the winning title for work that demonstrates the firm’s breadth of expertise in a complex field of law. The firm’s response, and creative solutions, helped a client navigate a crisis.
CSR Initiative of the Year (Private Practice)
Shortlisted firms: Badri and Salim El Meouchi Law Firm, Dentons, DLA Piper, Hage-Chahine Law Firm
Highly commended: Dentons
Winner: Badri and Salim El Meouchi Law Firm
Judges said the winner boasts an impressive pro bono record dedicated to a high number of a wide range of corporate social responsibility initiatives.
Deal Team of the Year
There was no shortlist for this category this year – instead the judges felt there was one very obvious winner. This year’s Deal Team of the year winner was Gulf Marketing Group’s acquisition of Royal Sporting House.
Diversity Initiative of the Year (Private Practice)
Shortlisted firms: Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, DLA Piper, Norton Rose Fulbright
Highly commended: DLA Piper
Winner: Norton Rose Fulbright
One judge commented that this year’s winner is tackling racial and cultural inequities in its firm and in the legal profession by implementing such programs as Active Listening and Learning and Development to sensitize its staff, and also acceleration and mentorship for the careers of minority employees.
Diversity Initiative of the Year (In-House)
Shortlisted firms: Gartner, LOD
Highly commended: Gartner
Which means LOD is crowned winner for allowing individuals an opportunity to have flexible working arrangements on such a wide and ongoing basis, which has been beneficial to all concerned.
General Counsel of the Year – Large Team
Shortlisted: Fawaz Alawadhi – Alghanim Industries; Walid Khalil – Mezzan Holding
Company; Vinodh Kumar – ETC Group; Noora Sulaibeekh – Bahrain Telecommunications Company
Highly commended: Fawaz Alawadhi, Alghanim Industries
Winner: Noora Sulaibeekh, Bahrain Telecommunications Company
Judges agreed that the winner is a professional, creative and motivating team leader, working in a complex and challenging sector that requires a GC with unique talents.
General Counsel of the Year – Small Team – sponsored by LexisNexis
Shortlisted: Abe Abed – noon.com; Yasser Aboismail – Schindler; Ahmed Al-Fezea – Khafji Joint Operations; Shadi Mallah – Dow Inc; Sadique Mohd – Five Holdings
Highly commended: Sadique Mohd, Five Holdings
Winner: Yasser Aboismail, Schindler
The judges said that this year’s winner demonstrates an excellent combination of team empowerment, enhancing team development and business partnering with excellence.
Infrastructure & Energy Projects Team of the Year
Shortlisted firms: Al Tamimi & Company, Ashurst, Bracewell, Milbank, Reed Smith
Highly commended: Ashurst
Judges said the winner’s work on a first-of-its-kind solar energy project required getting to grips with cutting-edge technologies adjusting conventional structures to the transaction documents, as well as the application of new financing structures for the Middle East market.
Innovation Through Technology – Private Practice
Shortlisted: Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Baker McKenzie, Norton Rose Fulbright, PwC Legal Middle East, Support Legal Limited
The competition was so fierce among those listed that our judges couldn’t decide on one
winner and so decided to award two firms:
Our first winner showed outstanding innovation in legal services through a range of technological tools and platforms.
Judges said our second winner is “truly changing the paradigm of the delivery of legal services”, adding that “this is true innovation combined with a history of delivery”.
And so this year’s two winners were PwC Legal and Support Legal Limited.
Innovation Through Technology – In-House
Shortlisted: Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, First Abu Dhabi Bank, SEDCO Holding, TAQA
Highly commended: SEDCO Holding
Winner: First Abu Dhabi Bank
This year’s winning team’s work has been described as a great example of how to use technology to solve actual problems and deliver results. One judge said what they loved about this entry was that it “wasn’t about the “bells and whistles”, but showed a pragmatic and agile response to a global business need”.
International Law Firm of the Year – sponsored by LexisNexis
Shortlisted firms: Ashurst, Clyde & Co, CMS, Dentons, K&L Gates, PwC Legal, Shearman & Sterling, Squire Patton Boggs, Taylor Wessing
Highly commended: Dentons
Winner: Clyde & Co
Judges said that the winner had a clear strategy which has resulted in strong financial growth across numerous jurisdictions, a strong focus on clients, offering new services and a new litigation funding offering. The firm has also demonstrated an impressive commitment to pro bono work alongside its focus on its own lawyers, resulting in a strong round of partner promotions last year, and development opportunities for junior staff locally in the Middle East.
Legal Department of the Year – Large Team
Shortlisted: ACWA Power, Dubai Municipality, ETC Group, Gulf Marketing Group, Investment & Development Office, Government of Ras Al Khaimah, SEDCO Holding
Winner: ACWA Power
The winner of this year’s prestigious legal department of the year, large team, fought off stiff competition by demonstrating legal expertise in innovative projects. Judges were impressed with a particularly strong reference mentioning “building a culture of trust and collaboration”, calling the team “a strategic partner and integral to our business”. Judges also described the team as exciting to be a part of for junior team members, with a key focus on development.
Legal Department of the Year – Small Team
Shortlisted: Dragon Oil, Flash Entertainment, noon.com, The ENTERTAINER, TikTok
Highly commended: noon.com
Judges said that the winner’s strong performance was evident in the glowing testimonials from business divisional heads, and from their structured and holistic approach to their work.
Litigation Team of the Year
Shortlisted firms: Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla, Clyde & Co, Eversheds Sutherland, Hage-Chahine Law Firm
Highly commended: Charles Russell Speechlys
Winner: Hage-Chahine Law Firm
This year’s winner “successfully navigated the minefields of sovereign immunity and the rules and regulations of the Middle East, as well as the laws of France, Libya, Kuwait, Egypt and the Arab Investment Treaty to obtain a $1.3 billion judgment for its client. Judges said this required great skill in project management and seamless legal excellence over many jurisdictions.
Most Promising Newcomer Award – Private Practice
Shortlisted: Sahar Abas – Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Mohammed Abbas – Hadef & Partners, Mustafa Khalid – Galadari Advocates & Legal Consultants, Shayan Najib – Bracewell, Jas Shoker – Pinsent Masons, Ruslan Sulaimanov – King & Spalding
Highly commended: Sahar Abas, Associate at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
Winner: Shayan Najib, associate at Bracewell
Judges said the winner of this individual award demonstrated energy and dynamism, and concluded that this person “is very dedicated and enjoys the trust of those with whom they work”. Their work on some critical deals and major clients has been commended by their employer and in spite of being a newcomer, they are working at a very high level.
Real Estate Team of the Year
Shortlisted firms: Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla, Charles Russell Speechlys, Pinsent Masons
Highly commended: Pinsent Masons
Winner: Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla
Judges were impressed by the winning firm’s leadership on a $5.5 billion long-term lease agreement between an oil company and a major private equity firm. One judge added that the winning submission presented “a complex deal that was well managed and clearly laid out how the various challenges were dealt with”.
Regional Law Firm of the Year
Shortlisted firms: BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates, Cedar White Bradley, Hage-Chahine Law Firm, Kılınc Law & Consulting, The Bench
Highly commended: The Bench
Winner: BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates
Judges said that the winner has an impressive regional footprint in the Middle East, which offers a full service to it’s clients, delivering excellence each time.
Regulatory & Investigations Team of the Year
Shortlisted firms: Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Al Tamimi & Company, Eversheds
Sutherland, Norton Rose Fulbright, Simmons & Simmons
Highly commended: Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
Winner: Al Tamimi & Company
Judges praised the winning firm for its innovative and expertly plotted COVID-19 implementation projects.
Rising Star Award – In-House
Shortlisted: Sibel Almobideen – Simatech Shipping; Fivos Athos Sarelis – SEDCO Holding; Kate Birkin – TikTok; Priscila Mielli Abrahao – Vivo Smartphones; Akshay Narula – Flash Entertainment; Oleksandra Storozhuk – Five Holdings
Highly commended: Kate Birkin – TikTok
Winner: Fivos Athos Sarelis, senior legal counsel at SEDCO Holdings
Judges said this winning individual showed “fabulous experience” in their work and was a more than deserving winner of the top prize.
Rising Star Award – Private Practice
Shortlisted: Yousif Ahmed – Richmond Sterling Law; Alexandra Aikman – Pinsent Masons; Reem Al Mahroos – Charles Russell Speechlys; Parnika Chaturvedi – King & Wood Mallesons; Charles Dolphin – CMS; Sadaff Habib – Beale & Co; Raka Roy – Galadari Advocates & Legal Consultants; Joanna Stewart – Davidson & Co; Johann Strauss – Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
Highly commended: Joanna Stewart, senior associate at Davidson & Co
Winner: Parnika Chaturvedi, counsel at King & Wood Mallesons
Our next individual award goes to a person who, judges said, made important contributions to their firm, demonstrated excellent legal skills, and a strategic vision, as well as making contributions to the wider community.
TMT Team of the Year
Shortlisted firms: Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates, Charles Russell Speechlys, Clyde & Co, CMS, DLA Piper, KARM Legal Consultant, Simmons & Simmons, The Bench
Highly commended: Simmons & Simmons
Winner: DLA Piper
This year’s winning team delivered an impressive performance in what the judges called a highly technical deal to support the UAE Government. One judge said: “They are to be congratulated on their grasp of the legal aspects, as well as the innovative use of technology for the management of the project.”