IR Global Spotlight – Back in the UAE: why Antonio Varvaro left Italy to set up his practice in the desert city state

Antonio Varvaro is an international lawyer who has spent most of his career outside his native Italy, living and working in the UAE. Since setting up operations in Dubai, he has become a go-to specialist in corporate, tax and business issues in the territory, particularly among the Italian expatriate community.

As someone with a keen interest in international business and politics, and a student of history, Antonio always believed he’d leave his native Italy as soon as he qualified as a lawyer. Initially, his aim was to move to London to build his career, and he took up intensive classes in English language ahead of his planned move.

And his English training did come in handy, but not in the way he’d planned. As so often happens in life, a sudden opportunity arose that he couldn’t turn down.

“Made in Italy”

In 2006-2007, Antonio’s career took a significant turn when he was selected by the Italian government to be part of project “Made in Italy”, which was set up to combat product counterfeiting around the world. This opportunity allowed him to showcase his expertise in issues involving Intellectual Property – and support Italian companies abroad.

“Basically, I took part in a programme set up by the Italian government to send 14 lawyers to 10 countries to focus on Intellectual Property, counterfeiting etc,” Antonio says.

“IP abuse is a perennial problem for Italian business operation overseas and it’s something I had an expertise in.”

Out of the hundreds of applicants, Antonio – much to his surprise and delight – was selected. Even more surprising, he was posted to Dubai: “I had been in Dubai some years before, but only for a few days. Now I was living here. So I was really surprised about that. In 2008, I moved here and it’s where I started my new adventure in life.”

The Dubai experience

Antonio’s move to Dubai was not only a significant change geographically but also a chance for him to become affiliated to the Italian embassy to the UAE. This position provided him with unique opportunities to network with Italian and other expatriate business people in the territory.

“Being part of the Italian embassy offered me really valuable insights into the dynamics of international relations and allowed me to establish connections with people from various backgrounds.

“You have to understand that the Abu Dhabi/Dubai are cities of opportunities. I suddenly found myself in a different world where I could really achieve my dreams. I love Italy and go back often, but Dubai is my home.”

AMV legal consultants

After a few years working for the Italian government in the UAE, Antonio eventually decided to set up AMV Legal Consultants. As one of only three Italian law firms licensed in Dubai, AMV legal has built a wide ranging practice offering clients a number of services. This includes litigation and dispute resolution, corporate law, intellectual property, international taxation and real estate law.

“Our unique skills set does set us apart as a legal firm – we are well- versed in both civil law and common law, for example. This combination is crucial for our practice.”

Antonio’s clients initially comprised companies with a particular focus on corporate law, but that evolved over time into the practice he runs today. More recently, he has ventured into assisting high net worth individuals who require legal support.

“Our expertise has always been in guiding entrepreneurs and businesspeople through the process of setting up companies in the UAE. While most of our clients tend to be Italian, we also have foreign clients who have a connection to Italy or require legal assistance in the UAE.

“We recently helped a Dubai-based British woman buy real estate in southern Italy, providing legal advice and connecting her with a local lawyer. “I also represented a French company in arbitration against a UAE company and that was largely thanks to IR Global. That company contacted me because their lawyer is a member of IR Global.”

The IR Global effect

Antonio believes IR Global has given AMV Legal the right platform to market its services and expertise: “IR Global has been hugely valuable for me and I like to meet with as many people in the network as possible. It has given me the opportunity to connect with professionals from around the world and expand my network.”

“We have been members since 2016. I really enjoy attending the events and meeting old friends.”

“Also, since last April, we opened a new practise area, Global Mobility. This is focused on high net worth individuals and executives doing business around the world. This connects directly with IR Global members who have their own networks of high net worth individuals and executive who are always eager to set up in different locations, particularly for tax purposes. I think the new business will be a good way to collaborate with other IR Global members.”

Ambition and adaptability

Antonio is the kind of international expatriate lawyer/entrepreneur who admires people who are prepared to take risks and be adventurous – much like himself. He believes his career is a testament to ambition, adaptability and an ability to understand how to network properly.

“I work hard and have always worked hard,” he smiles. “But if you’re not prepared to put in the hours you won’t succeed. I’m convinced of that – and look where that hard work has got me?”

“I don’t have a lot of spare time because I work far too much – even on Saturday I am here at the office. But for at least for one day a week I spend time with my young daughter. She really is the best thing in my life and if I don’t spend time with her she’ll think that I’m just a friend of her mother’s, who sleeps there from time to time,” he laughs.

When Antonio is away from the office, he spends time with his family enjoying life by the sea: “During the winter I go to the beach because I love the sea – it’s too hot in summer. I like to watch movies on Netflix. And I like to read as much as I can in English.”

On Sundays, Antonio also likes to cook for the family: “Yes, I cook and I’m pretty good. I live in Dubai on Marina Walk and it’s a beautiful place to live – I wouldn’t want to live or work anywhere else.”