Ex DLA Islamic finance head launches new firm

DLA’s former global head of Islamic finance Oliver Agha has set up a firm in the United Arab Emirates, establishing a non-exclusive relationship with Pillsbury.

DLA Piper’s former global head of Islamic finance Oliver Agha has set up a firm in the United Arab Emirates, establishing a non-exclusive relationship with Pillsbury.

Agha has formed the Agha & Shamsi law firm in Abu Dhabi with Emirati lawyer Dr Al-Shamsi. The practice will initially employ six lawyers focusing on Islamic finance, energy, restructuring and project finance and marks the first Gulf affiliation for US firm Pillsbury.

Agha said: “The idea is to create a high quality firm and provide Islamic finance, UAE and Saudi law advice [through an alliance with a Saudi firm]. I was in talks with quite a few firms and the cultural fit with Pillsbury was best.”

Pillsbury’s trade finance partner and head of the worldwide finance practice Michael Schumaecker said:

“Part of what we’ve been doing for a year is speaking to a number of firms. We wanted something very small and focused in the Middle East and began to speak to Oliver Agha in the summer. Oliver must have met over 50 Pillsbury partners. He needed to feel comfortable with our culture and our intellectual approach to Islamic finance. We don’t see it as just another way of structuring a deal. Islamic finance is not a technique, it’s a philosophy.”

He added: “This is not just a referral but a collaboration, we will be acting as co-counsel on certain things. We bring industry expertise and he brings intellectual rigour. We tend to be quite careful and methodical as a firm, when we do something we rarely regret it.”

Agha refused to confirm at this date on which Saudi firm Agha & Shamsi will
be working with. On his former colleague and ex-DLA Piper Saudi sponsor Abdulaziz Al Bosaily, he commented: “Abdulaziz and I have worked extremely closely in the past and continue to do so.”

Agha, who was also head of DLA Piper’s Saudi practice, left that firm three months ago with a team of associates and was understood to have considered setting up business with the Al Bosaily (TheLawyer.com, 13 October 2008).

As reported on TheLawyer.com today, Al Bosaily’s relationship with DLA Piper subsequently came to an end last month (26 January).

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