I am often asked why I founded Mantle Law. This question has the potential to inspire a reflective and insightful response. While it is valuable to explore the reasons for transitioning away from prominent law firms worldwide, I prefer to direct attention towards the advantages of establishing Mantle Law and the positive experiences shared by both our lawyers and clients.

Instead of listing out the benefits of boutique law firms, I thought I would take a more personal approach and explain my own story and, by doing so, hopefully answer the question of why.

My parents grew up abroad and my father was a builder with his own business and my initial love in law was dispute resolution and litigation, so finding my way into the world of international construction and energy disputes was almost inevitable. Prior to launching Mantle Law, I worked in very large international law firms and had the privilege of working with some outstanding teams and lawyers.

The first 10 years of my career was in the UK working on large scale construction and engineering disputes which naturally steered me towards the Middle East which, at that time, was undertaking some of the largest construction, infrastructure and energy projects in the world; literally cities were rising out of the ground.

With travel in the blood, I relocated to Dubai with my, then, young family and began working on disputes related to some of the largest projects in the World. I knew almost immediately that I had found my home and a projects environment in which I would love practicing, and clients whom I enjoyed supporting and working with through their most challenging issues.

I was offered partnership and whilst my focus remained on clients and service delivery, I discovered that I also enjoyed building and nurturing teams of lawyers, whether that be teams within the larger law firm model or teams specifically for an arbitration. This has not changed, and in fact it has increased. Seeing a team that comes together and starts working for the law firm, the clients but also, fundamentally, for themselves is a real buzz. It is something that clients pick up on and having a happy, collegiate and brilliant team is a sure-fire way of supporting and growing an exciting and sustainable practice. To be able to do that without any constraints on a platform such as Mantle Law is just incredible.

So, I was a partner with the largest construction disputes team in the Middle East, had built a good team around me, had amazing clients and contacts in the region and all around the world but had a sense that there was more. I wanted more for my team, more for my clients and ultimately more for myself. I could not see how ‘more’ was possible within the structure of the larger, full service, international law firm and so I began strategizing options. No matter how I cut it, I kept coming back to the establishment of a boutique law firm, operating in the sectors of construction, infrastructure and energy and with a focus on disputes was the leading option.

Disputes in these sectors drive the business of a lot of local and international law firms in the Middle East and once I had the idea of creating my own law firm, thoughts turned to why no one else had started a firm with the same focus. Was I missing something or was there a genuine gap in the market? The entrepreneur within me very much believed there was a gap in the market and so the concept of Mantle Law was born.

The process of setting up a law firm, which has the structure, foundations and support to become a major player in the market, is not for the faint hearted.  It is arduous, challenging and a journey that has taken me from lawyer to businessman, and back to lawyer.

Mantle was launched in the UAE on 1 June 2020, at the height of the global pandemic and at a time of huge uncertainty. I remember sitting in the office with Mantle’s Office Manager, Charlotte, and thinking that now is the time to really show myself, my team, the region and the world that the concept of Mantle Law is a reality. Without hesitation, we went to market and started to win work and mandates. As we won more mandates, we hired more brilliant people and as we hired more people, we won more mandates. Soon we were representing some of the largest clients in the world on the largest disputes in the region. The fact that clients kept coming back was vindication that the gap in the market was (once) there. All that was required was the right group of motivated individuals, at the right time, to provide a service that was different to those already on offer. Mantle Law was starting to challenge the market.

Not being one for sitting still, within the first year, and based on the runaway success of Mantle Law in the UAE, we started to focus on London. London is my home jurisdiction and is one of the main world centres for dispute resolution. This led me to discussions with Gurbinder Grewal who shared the same vision, drive and appetite to move into the gap. In November 2021 we launched Mantle Law London.

It is a source of absolute delight to see the growth of the London firm who are working for some of the largest contractors and employers in our sectors, producing the quality of work which Mantle Law is associated with. With a number of new hires in the pipeline, including two new Partners soon to be announced, our increasing headcount and mandates will propel us alongside some of the leading construction, energy and infrastructure disputes teams in London.

We have grown to 12 in the UAE and we seem to be a consistent source of interest for lawyers ranging from newly qualifieds to partners. What attracts them? It may be that we are a cohesive team who like each other, who love our work and who are delivering simply amazing results for clients on high-profile disputes. Or, it may be that they are seeking something more than what the traditional law firm model can offer. Either way, the ‘Mantle momentum’ continues at pace to drive talent attraction and in turn, business growth.

So, what next? We have been approached by interested lawyers in new jurisdictions and are listening to what they have to say and considering whether that market gap exists where they are. If it does and those individuals and teams share our ambition, dedication to quality and love of the job, then Mantle Law will expand outside of the UAE and UK.

Sir Winston Churchill once said, “find a job you love and you will never work again”. Whilst some days, in the heat of an arbitration battle, this may feel like work, that love of the job remains and I have to say, I do agree with Mr Churchill. Mantle Law has offered me, and those that work with me, a platform to love our jobs (again) and I suspect now, at the end of this article, I have found the answer as to why I founded Mantle Law.


Posted by: Matthew Heywood

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