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June 8, 2011 5:27 PM

Vinson & Elkins Names New Middle East Managing Partner

Posted by Irene Plagianos

Vinson & Elkins Islamic finance partner Ayman Khaleq has been named Middle East managing partner, the firm announced on Wednesday. In his new role, Khaleq will continue to practice out of the Dubai office, overseeing that office as well as the firm's other two offices in the region, in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh.

Khaleq replaces energy finance partner Lewis Jones, who is returning to the firm's London office after serving as Middle East managing partner out of Abu Dhabi for the past four years. Lewis will continue to work with clients in the region, according to the firm.

Khaleq was among the first attorneys to join V&E's Dubai office, the firm's maiden outpost in the region.  He was hired as an associate in 2004, a few months after that office opened, and was promoted to partner in 2007, the same year that V&E launched its Abu Dhabi office.

A native of Jordan, Khaleq has focused his practice on structured finance and debt capital markets transactions, with an emphasis on Islamic finance. He also advises clients on private equity transactions in the Middle East and on the formation of Sharia-compliant infrastructure, private equity, and real estate funds.

Khaleq says that as managing partner he hopes to continue building up the firm's Middle East practice, which most recently expanded in May with the addition of the Riyadh office. Along those lines, Khaleq says that he expects to hire four associates before the end of the summer to augment the current total of 26 lawyers now staffing the three offices.

"Across the offices, we have a number of solid practice areas, and that helps us in the long run," says Khaleq, citing M&A, capital markets, energy, and conventional and Islamic banking and finance in particular. He adds that the firm has a "broad view of what the  Middle East region is" and notes that the three offices serve as bases for work in Turkey and North Africa, and on the Indian subcontinent.

Khaleq says he is also seeing growth in venture capital and private equity deals in the region, especially in Iraq.

V&E is one of several firms with a significant presence in the region. Baker & McKenzie has five offices: Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Cairo, Doha, and Riyadh. Latham & Watkins says it has more than 50 lawyers in Abu Dhabi, Doha, Dubai, and Riyadh. King & Spalding has offices in the same three Middle East cities as V&E, while Allen & Overy is in those locations, as well as in Doha.

"The region is changing," Khaleq says. "And that's good for business and good for lawyers in the coming years."

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