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Financial centre: Three Crowns chooses Middle East for first office since launch

Boutique arbitration firm Three Crowns has opened a Middle Eastern office in Bahrain, its first expansion since being founded five years ago.

Three Crowns opened in Washington, Paris and London in April 2014 after being set up by former Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer arbitration partners Constantine Partasides, Georgios Petrochilos and Jan Paulsson as well as former partners from Jones Day, Covington & Burling and Shearman & Sterling.

Today (1 October), it announced it was establishing a presence in the Middle East to serve clients including the Kingdom of Bahrain and Sultanate of Oman. It has also advised in the energy, construction, telecoms and defence sectors in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Kuwait, Yemen, Libya and Iraq.

The firm focuses exclusively on arbitration: commercial, investment-treaty, and inter-state. Founding partner Paulsson and partner Scott Vesel will jointly lead the Bahrain office.

Paulsson moves from the Washington office and has decades of experiences practising as an advocate and arbitrator in international cases including cases in the Middle East. Vesel has acted in international investment and commercial arbitrations in the oil and gas, construction, energy, technology and agribusiness sectors in jurisdictions across the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia.

Paulsson commented: ‘We’ve had a number of significant cases that have been handled out of our other offices. Those of us who like living in this region want to cut down on our own travelling and obviously it’s more efficient for us to work more locally, rather than commuting, so it makes sense from that point of view. There are the usual significant construction disputes. I have been more involved in the energy area and in finance.’

The firm currently has two partners and one associate in Bahrain but Paulsson says the firm may hire locally and that the office won’t stay at one associate for very long. ‘The firm has grown beyond our expectations. We were content with the idea of moving slowly but it never works out that way,’ he added, while saying that the firm has no current plans to open in other jurisdictions saying, ‘From our side, we need to assimilate before we move on’.

The firm has 53 lawyers across all four offices. Last year, Three Crowns hired Freshfields litigation partner Reza Mohtashami QC, who rose to prominence in London as part of the firm’s well-established international arbitration practice after a successful five-year stint in Dubai.