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Past Chairs

The Past Chairs of the CIArb UAE Branch are listed here, along with details of the time they served on the Branch Committee.

Essam AlTamami

Essam Al Tamimi FCIArb C.Arb

(Branch formation 2005 - 2011)

Essam Al Tamimi was welcomed as our Branch Patron in 2011 and remains in this important role to date.

In 1989, Essam established Al Tamimi & Company, the largest law firm in the Middle East and holds the position of Senior Partner at the firm. He has over 30 years of experience in litigation and arbitration in the region and has advised private and public sector clients in major projects and has been instrumental in driving legal reform.

Essam is a recipient of International Financial Law Review’s (IFLR) prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award and the Gulf Legal Lifetime Achievement Award, both of which recognise his outstanding contribution to the legal market in the region.

He is on the ICC Court, serving as Vice-Chair of the ICC Commission on Arbitration and ADR, Paris; is a member of the Steering Committee of the ICC UAE Commission on Arbitration and ADR; is the Chair of the DIFC-LCIA and is a member of the International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA), to name a few. 


Dr Habib Al Mulla

Dr Habib Al Mulla FCIArb

(2011 - 2014)

Dr. Habib Al Mulla, Chairman of Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla, has over 32 years of experience in U A E law and has drafted many of Dubai’s modern legislative structures. He focuses his practice on litigation and arbitration and is Chairman of the Dubai International Arbitration Centre’s (DIAC) Board of Trustees. He was the founder and executive chairman of the law firm Habib Al Mulla in the UAE in 1985 prior to its merger with leading global law firm Baker McKenzie in 2013.

Dr. Al Mulla is a frequent commentator on U A E legislation and economy and is often consulted to draft and advise on Federal and Emirate level laws. He created the concept of financial free zones in the U A E and was the architect of the legal framework establishing the Dubai International Financial Centre.

Dr. Al Mulla has also served as legislative committee chairman of the Dubai Financial Services Authority, Director of the Institute of Advanced Legal and Judicial Studies, and Chairman of the UAE Jurists Association.


Michael Tonkin

Michael Tonkin FCIArb C.Arb

(2014 - 2015)
(Formerly Vice Chairman 2010 - 2014)

Michael Tonkin stepped down as Chair on 31 December 2014 to become a Trustee and continues in this role to date. He is also the current Honorary Treasurer.

Michael is a Chartered Quantity Surveyor, Chartered Arbitrator and CEDR Accredited Mediator with over 25 years of construction industry experience. He is an effective dispute resolver and has acted as quantum expert on more than 15 occasions and leads HKA's Expert Services team in the Middle East & Africa.

Michael has been appointed as arbitrator on more than 60 occasions (as sole arbitrator, Chairman of a tribunal of three, and co-arbitrator) under the auspices of ICC, LCIA, DIAC, ADCCAC and the TAI. He also acts as dispute resolver in other ADR such as adjudication and DABs.


James Abbott

James Abbott MCIArb

(2015 - 2017)
(Formerly Vice Chairman 2013 – 2015)

James Abbott is Head of the Construction Disputes practice for Clifford Chance in the Middle East. James specialises in commercial litigation, arbitration and ADR.

James has significant experience of cross-border banking and financial litigation, including fraud and asset tracing, regulatory investigations, sanctions issues, joint venture and shareholder disputes. He has advised on a number of major infrastructure and construction projects and represents insurers and reinsurers. James has experience of arbitration under the ICC, LCIA, UNCITRAL, ICSID and DIAC Rules.


Leonora Riesenburg

Leonora Riesenburg FCIArb

(2017 to date) 
(Formerly Branch Honorary Secretary 2015 – 2017)

Leonora Riesenburg is a Fellow of Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, an arbitrator and certified commercial mediator, practicing in the UAE for over a decade since the start of 2007, and a passionate proponent for private dispute resolution in all of its forms.

Currently Group Head of Legal/ Group General Counsel at Gulf General Investments Co. P.S.C. (GGICO), a public listed company in Dubai, Leonora Riesenburg steers the legal direction of the affairs of GGICO and its Group of Companies.

Leonora Riesenburg has held appointments in numerous international arbitrations and mediations variously as a party neutral, a party-appointed representative and advocate (both domestically and abroad). .