US law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and newly established Mid-East firm Agha & Shamsi have formed an alliance to expand Pillsbury’s Islamic finance capabilities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East.

“Pillsbury has become increasingly active in projects in the Middle East, particularly when it comes to energy and infrastructure matters,” says Michael Schumaecker, a trade finance partner and head of Pillsbury’s worldwide finance practice. “Given the crush of American firms moving into the UAE, we felt it would be far more effective to form an alliance with a law firm whose two founders, Oliver Agha and Dr Saeed Mohammed Al-Shamsi, are already accomplished and well-known in the region.”

Schumaecker adds that one of the firm’s objectives is to “establish world-class capabilities in Islamic finance, a complex practice area that demands uncompromising intellectual rigour”.

Agha & Shamsi is headquartered in Abu Dhabi with a lead focus on Islamic finance, UAE law and, through its affiliation with a prominent Saudi law firm, Saudi law. Agha, a US-qualified attorney, formerly served as global head of Islamic finance and head of the Saudi practice at DLA Piper. Before that he was at Clifford Chance’s Saudi Arabian affiliate’s office in Riyadh and also worked at Fulbright & Jaworski, in both the US and Asia. Agha’s practice covers a number of sectors including project finance, energy, restructuring, Islamic project finance (petrochemicals, power, and infrastructure), Islamic banking, Islamic capital markets and Islamic private equity, Islamic real estate financing and Islamic insurance.

Al-Shamsi, a leading Emirati figure who has had a legal practice in the UAE since 1992, focuses on commercial, corporate, arbitration, conflict and dispute resolution matters. He began his career serving as a representative of the UAE Mission to the United Nation’s Third Committee (which the General Assembly allocates to its social, humanitarian and cultural affairs) in 1974 and subsequently served as the chargé d’affaires of the UAE embassy in Washington DC, and then as the UAE Ambassador to Germany, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden, India, Nepal and Australia and New Zealand. Al-Shamsi also served as the director of the economic and political department in the Presidential Court in Abu Dhabi.