EXPERTISE

Stephen specialises in high-value and complex disputes in the construction sector. He advises and represents contractors, subcontractors, developers, design and engineering professionals and litigation funders in disputes and on dispute avoidance. 

Stephen has been based full-time in the Middle East since 2012. As a result, he has substantial regional experience throughout the GCC. He also a broader international practice, and has acted as either counsel or arbitrator in cases seated in numerous jurisdictions and under all major institutional and ad hoc rules (including DIAC, ICC, ADCCAC, ICSID, DIFC-LCIA, LCIA, HKIAC, SCC, SIAC and UNCITRAL). Stephen also represents clients in court proceedings, including proceedings before the courts of the Dubai International Financial Centre and the Abu Dhabi Global Market. He also acts in mediation, expert determination, negotiated settlement and other forms of alternative dispute resolution.

Advocacy is a key part of Stephen's practice, and he appears regularly as lead or sole advocate. He is particularly comfortable handling cases that are technically-complex and in cases that involve large volumes of evidence. Stephen is used to successfully appearing against senior advocates and barristers (including Queen's Counsel and Senior Counsel). 

Stephen writes and speaks regularly on matters relating to construction, arbitration and DIFC law. He is a member of the editorial board of the International Arbitration Law Review.

Representative examples of Stephen's experience include:

  • ICSID arbitration (Washington) – Representing and appearing as advocate for an EPC contractor in claims brought under a bilateral investment treaty against a Middle Eastern state. 
  • DIFC-LCIA arbitration (DIFC) - Advising and appearing as lead advocate for a global contractor in arbitration proceedings against its consortium partner arising out of the design and construction of a major infrastructure project in Saudi Arabia.
  • ICC arbitration (Mumbai) – Represented and appeared as advocate for a subcontractor on claims relating to the fabrication and installation of an offshore process platform. Received an award entirely in our client’s favour, together with a substantial award of costs and interest.
  • DIFC Courts (DIFC) – Appeared as advocate in a successful application for immediate judgment on claims relating to a construction project in Kuwait.
  • ICC arbitration (Riyadh) – Represented for a Saudi Arabian charitable foundation in claims brought against a main contractor in connection with the construction of a university campus.
  • Ad-hoc arbitration (Dubai) - Represented and appeared as sole advocate for a UAE government entity in a dispute with a main contractor regarding the construction of a process plant in the UAE. This matter concerned claims for acceleration and other costs, the vast majority of which were rejected with a substantial costs award in our client's favour.
  • ICC arbitration (Dubai) - Represented and appeared as lead advocate for a Dubai government-related entity as employer in a dispute over the construction of a 'supertall' mixed-use tower in Dubai. Received an award dismissing virtually all of the claims against our client and upholding over 90% of our client’s counterclaims, together with a substantial award of costs.
  • DIAC arbitration (Dubai) - Represented and appeared as lead advocate for a UAE developer in a dispute with a main contractor regarding claims for extensions of time and variations in relation to the construction of a residential housing complex in Dubai.
  • DIAC arbitration (Dubai) - Represented and appeared as lead advocate for a contractor in a dispute with an employer regarding the termination of a contract for construction of a mixed-use development in Dubai. Received an award in our client's favour on all claims, together with an award of all our client's costs.
  • Qatar Courts/Mediation - Representing a global engineering firm in a multi-party mediation of claims relating to the design and construction of a highway in Qatar.
  • HKIAC arbitration (Hong Kong) - Represented and appeared as lead advocate for an international school in connection with a dispute regarding the proposed purchase of a plot of land in Cambodia. Our client defeated all claims brought against it, prevailed on its counterclaim and was awarded a significant sum in respect of its costs.
  • SCC arbitration (Stockholm) – Representing a global power equipment manufacturer in claims against a Chinese licensee for breaches of a technology license agreement. 
  • LCIA arbitrations (London) – Represented a Russian individual in linked arbitration proceedings arising out the sale and purchase of a telecommunications retail conglomerate. These claims were settled on terms favorable to our client following a two-day mediation in London. 
  • SIAC arbitration (Singpaore) – Represented an Indian mine owner in claims against an Australian counterparty under contract for the supply of coal.
  • ICC arbitration (London) - Acted for a Middle-Eastern refinery owner in an EPC dispute with a main contractor. These proceedings ultimately were settled on terms favourable to our client.
  • UNCITRAL arbitration (Houston) - Acted for the U.S. subsidiary of a global energy company regarding claims brought against it by an Italian joint venture partner in connection with an on-shore block in Italy. This resulted in an award entirely in our client's favour.
  • High Court proceedings (London) - Acted and appeared as sole advocate for a UK charity in High Court proceedings against a former trustee who had misappropriated sums whilst the charity’s treasurer. As part of this case, I obtained a worldwide freezing injunction against the former trustee’s bank accounts and we were able to recover the stolen funds in full.
Testimonials

Legal 500 EMEA (2017, 2018 and 2019): Rated as a “Next Generation Lawyer” in dispute resolution and in construction.

Chambers Global (2020) – Construction: Dispute Resolution: "Stephen Burke is a regular advocate in arbitrations and DIFC court litigation, representing contractors and engineering firms in significant disputes. As well as this, he leverages his deep regional experience to advise on cross-border cases. Interviewees comment that 'he's a very good lawyer and very, very smart,' with fellow practitioners observing that 'he does a lot of his own advocacy' and is very skilled in this regard."

Chambers Global (2020): Dispute Resolution: "Stephen Burke is widely noted for his skills as an advocate, and receives particular praise for his handling of construction cases. He is active across both arbitration and litigation, and has a wider commercial practice covering contentious joint venture agreements and shareholder disputes. Interviewees regard him as 'a serious player' in the dispute resolution field."

Chambers Global (2019) – Construction: Dispute Resolution: “Commentators highlight Stephen Burke as an ‘outstanding advocate’ and a ‘very talented lawyer.’ He is active on a range of high-profile construction disputes and has extensive experience in representing clients in arbitration proceedings under a variety of institutional rules.”

Chambers Global (2019) – Dispute Resolution: “Widely commended for his construction disputes practice, Stephen Burke is complimented by clients for his ‘very good advocacy skills.’ His wider practice includes transactional and corporate disputes.”

Chambers Global (2018) Construction - Dispute Resolution: “Regarding Stephen Burke, commentators say: ‘He's brilliant - a very good lawyer.’ He is active on a range of high-profile construction disputes and has extensive experience in representing clients before the DIFC courts.”

Chambers Global (2017) Construction - Dispute Resolution: “Stephen Burke is described by clients as a ‘star’ and ‘one of those rare lawyers who can be an advocate and a solicitor.’ He lends his expertise to mainly contentious construction mandates as well as arbitration matters in the DIFC courts.”

Chambers Global (2016) Construction - Dispute Resolution: “'Stephen Burke thinks strategically and is a good advocate.' He focuses on the contentious side of construction and has experience advising on construction arbitration and proceedings in the DIFC courts."

Chambers Global (2015) Construction - Dispute Resolution: “'Very talented' senior associate Stephen Burke consistently impresses clients with the high level of service he provides. He focuses on arbitration in the construction sector.”

Chambers Global (2014) Construction - Dispute Resolution: “Stephen Burke draws rave reviews from clients, who say: ‘His pleading and cross-examinations were excellent, easy and logical, with good follow-through to the point. He understands construction issues, and picks things up very quickly'‘”

Client Choice Awards (Lexology) 2020 – Arbitration and ADR (UAE).

Ranked as a 'Rising Star' by Expert Guides 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Memberships
  • Society of Construction Law
  • Society of Construction Law Gulf
  • Solicitors' Association of Higher Rights Advocates
  • Panel of Arbitrators, Emirates Maritime Arbitration Centre
Admissions
  • Solicitor of the Senior Courts of England and Wales (2006)
  • Solicitor-Advocate (All Courts), England and Wales (2008)
  • Registered Legal Consultant, Dubai (2012)
  • Full rights of advocacy (Part II), Courts of the Dubai International Financial Centre (2012)
Education
  • BA (Hons), Christ's College, Cambridge (2002)
  • Diploma in Legal Practice (LPC), Nottingham Law School (2003)
  • MA, Christ's College, Cambridge (2006)
  • Diploma in Advocacy, College of Law (2008)