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Global Risk Spotlight Series: Qatar

12 June 2023
In the first instalment of the ‘Spotlight on Global Risk’ series, Bill Evans sat down with Kirk Durrant, Managing Partner of DWF in Qatar to learn what makes his team such a capable insurance and dispute resolution force. 

Bill discovered an incredible office recently ranked by Legal 500 thriving in the afterglow of the FIFA World Cup. A team committed to Qatar with over 25 years of combined experience in the GCC region. A team stocked with a New York bar qualified attorney, a lawyer fluent in Arabic who completed her training contract at a Magic Circle law firm in London and another with a significant London Market insurance background… 

Kirk Durrant, you’re the Managing Partner of DWF in Qatar, you’ve been based in the region for 16 years. Can you tell us about your background and how it is you found yourself in Doha?

Before becoming Managing Partner of DWF in Qatar in 2018, I was a Partner at K&L Gates for six years in Qatar. Prior to that I spent four and a half years at Patton Boggs (now Squire Patton Boggs) in Qatar.  After passing the New York and Connecticut bar exams in 2004 I started my career at a US firm McCarter & English. One of the partners I worked with at McCarter & English presented to me the opportunity to work on a project in Doha and made me a deal I couldn’t refuse… the rest, as they say, is history. I'm very proud to have worked in the GCC so extensively. It's a vibrant region that really has so much potential for growth and so much to offer both professionally and personally.

My practice covers both contentious and non-contentious construction and engineering matters. I have significant experience in international arbitrations as well as local litigation relating to property damage, energy infrastructure and of course construction projects. My team also has the ability to assist clients throughout the entire life cycle of major projects throughout the GCC.

DWF in Qatar has just been ranked in the Legal 500 EMEA Guide. Why do you think the office has been recognized?

As cliché as this may sound, we (as a team) hold each other to really high standards of quality and service delivery. Our commitment to each other and to delivering results for our clients is key. We pride ourselves on being accessible to our clients but also delivering professional work products that prioritize our clients' objectives (not just resolving their short-term issue(s)). As an office, we tend to get a significant amount of repeat work from existing clients. That tells me that the formula is somewhat delivering for us.

We are very proud of the Legal 500 rankings. That after just five years in the Qatar market, we have been ranked (in both Dispute Resolution and Projects & Construction) ahead of firms who have been in Doha much longer, this is something that I would not have predicted five years ago when we opened the office. Ultimately though, it's our outstanding roster of clients and our best in class people who have allowed the office to flourish.  It is humbling to have been given the privilege to lead such an outstanding team.

You have assembled a fantastic team in Doha. Both Aya Alwadia and Elena Mytnik-Gonta as well as Alex Kelsall are rising stars. Tell us about them in the context of DWF Qatar’s property, energy and construction capabilities as well its broader insurance and dispute resolution offering?

I am very proud of our team and the truth is that, as an office, we wouldn’t be where we are today without the contributions of each member of the team. Alex Kelsall is a rising star and he has an incredible work ethic and is very passionate about what he does. As well as being a very capable construction disputes lawyer, Alex has significant insurance experience and has worked extensively for insurers across property, energy and construction lines. He is also a DWF veteran having worked at DWF in Manchester before joining us in Doha 5 years ago. 

Aya Elwadia is another lawyer we are very proud of. She punches well above her pqe level (and will be a force to contend with in the profession in years to come). Aya was educated at Georgetown University in the United States before accepting a training contract at Clifford Chance in London. We were delighted to welcome her to our disputes team in 2020 where she now assists us across construction and engineering arbitrations as well as insurance disputes. 

Along with myself, Elena Mytnick-Gonta was recognised by the Legal 500 this year. Elena is very meticulous and very passionate about delivering first rate work to our clients. She has been instrumental in our projects and energy team which advises clients through the entire life-cycle of projects and regularly acts for EPC contractors in high value arbitrations.    

DWF in Qatar acts for all sorts of clients including insurers, construction companies and financial institutions. What can you tell us about your clients and your work?

Our team has a deep understanding of the EMEA market and regularly advises clients as far afield as England, Pakistan, Poland and the United States. 

Alex Kelsall is involved in advising London Market insurers in relation to equipment failures at plants in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as well as disputes stemming from CAR and Property policies. We are currently representing contractors in a number of construction arbitrations stemming from major projects in the GCC. Beyond acting for clients in the GCC, we are, at the moment, acting for clients, in Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kazakhstan and Australia among other jurisdictions and in many different sectors, including transportation (road, rail, ports, airport, border crossings), renewable energy (bio-methane, solar, wind), mining, large infrastructure etc.). 

How do you see DWF in Qatar complimenting DWF’s broader presence in region? Where are there opportunities to coordinate and collaborate?

Very few of our competitors have such a strong presence in the region. DWF in Qatar has the ability to manage a variety of property, energy and construction disputes is complimented strongly by capabilities in both Dubai and Riyadh. 

It was fantastic to see Victoria Clucas who has such a strong insurance practice join DWF in Dubai along with Bill Evans. Together with Brian Boahene and Alex Kelsall, DWF now has the ability to manage insurance disputes across lines of all sizes and complexities. It is quite some team coming together and we aren't finished yet.

Finally, why DWF? If you were a graduate looking to apply for a training contract or a client seeking to instruct a lawyer, why choose DWF?
I touched on it before, DWF has some very dynamic young partners who are ready to think outside the box and grow the business by utilising the global network. There is a real desire to connect people and not work in silos. Not every law firm embraces that thinking but we really do at DWF. That is to the benefit of clients and our young lawyers. It's exciting. 
For more information or enquiries, please contact Bill Evans or Kirk Durrant
Global Risk Spotlight Series
Read more from the 'Spotlight on Global Risk Series' that takes you on a journey through our offices and associate offices by introducing you to key people and capabilities.

Further Reading