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Freshfields head of Islamic finance to leave for Morgan Lewis

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer global head of Islamic finance Tarek El-Assra has quit the firm to join Morgan, Lewis & Bockius as a partner, as the Morgan Lewis targets the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia

The departure is Freshfields’ second exit in recent weeks after Shearman & Sterling hired its co-head of telecoms, media and technology, Frank Miller, as the latter firm bids to pull in a greater array of M&A in the City.

El-Assra joins Morgan Lewis’ Dubai office in a bid to build its cross-border Islamic finance and investment offering specifically targeting the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The hire comes as Morgan Lewis moves to bulk its international finance team with a focus on the Middle East. Ayman Khaleq, managing partner of the firm’s Dubai office and a partner in the finance and investment management practices, said: ‘Tarek will further strengthen our Gulf Cooperation Council and international transactional practices while greatly enhancing our already leading cross-border Islamic finance and investment capabilities.’

El-Assra has worked at Freshfields for the last four years, having joined from rival firm Allen & Overy (A&O) as counsel in 2011. At Freshfields, El-Assra headed the firm’s Islamic finance group and specialised in leveraged and acquisition finance, asset finance, real estate finance, trade finance, infrastructure and project finance, and restructurings.

He handled matters for clients in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia and worked closely with the firm’s global finance, debt capital markets, and restructuring teams in Dubai, New York, London, Frankfurt, and Singapore.

He joined A&O in 2000 and later became a senior associate, after spending a year at Goldman Sachs’ acquisition finance group.

The move forms part of Morgan Lewis’ wider investment strategy and comes shortly after the firm recruited structured finance partner Theresa Kradjian and corporate tax partner Paul Beausang – a further two further partners from K&L Gates, adding to the three already to have made the move in July – as its expands its City securitisation offering.