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The economic instability of the Eurozone has taken its toll on Albania. The past three years have seen a decline in business activity, largely due to the economic woes of Greece and Italy, two traditional investors in Albania. In addition, the election of Prime Minister Edi Rama in 2013 has led to allegations that his ‘clean hands’ approach to corruption has inadvertently stifled business growth.

A fall in M&A and investment project work has been replaced by increased dispute resolution, bankruptcy, reorganisation and debt recovery. There is much potential in green energy and major infrastructure projects, with the country’s roads, ports, and waste management still underdeveloped.

The legal market is dominated by a handful of quality firms which attract the limited headline work available, namely Boga & Associates, Kalo & Associates and Hoxha Memi Hoxha. The first two of those also have offices in neighbouring Kosovo. Competition is provided by a few CEE regional firms present in Tirana, of which Wolf Theiss is the best known internationally, and several smaller firms operating to international standards.

The following ranking is based on quality and scope of service. Therefore, narrowly focused practices may be ranked lower in the table than a quality competitor with a broader base but may still be considered outstanding in its field.

Multidisciplinary practice Boga & Associates provides full-service legal advice in addition to tax and accounting support, attracting a large roster of domestic and international clients including global companies. The team advised Hewlett-Packard on business restructuring in the region and gave intellectual property advice variously to Chevrolet Central and Eastern Europe, Hugo Boss and Mango. Recent litigation work included a Supreme Court representation on behalf of ProCredit Bank. Senior partner Genc Boga is well known; the team also includes Alketa Uruçi, Renata Leka and Gerhard Velaj.

The ‘truly excellentHoxha Memi Hoxha has a ‘very knowledgeable and efficient’ team, which is praised for providing practical solutions. It comprises three experienced partners in Shpati Hoxha, Andi Memi and Eris Hoxha supported by a pool of capable associates. The firm is advising Energji Ashta, a joint venture formed by Verbund and EVN, on the construction of a new €200m hydropower plant and is representing a consortium comprising the Albanian American Enterprise Fund and Morpho on its concession agreement with the Albanian government to produce and distribute ID cards and electronic passports.

Kalo & Associates is ‘a great, well-established firm in the market’ and a favourite among international law firms requiring local expertise. The firm is consistently retained on some of the country’s largest or more complex mandates and represents clients such as Vodafone Albania, Crédit Agricole and Transatlantic Petroleum. Recent deals include advising Deutsche Bank on a €250m loan agreement with the Albanian government. The firm is led by Perparim Kalo, who is ‘very experienced and well connected’, while Ardjana Shehi is another standout individual.

Wolf Theiss scoops a number of significant domestic and cross-border mandates and clients report ‘an excellent service’. It is acting for lead managers Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan in the latest government Eurobond issuance, estimated at €300m. Other work included acting for Albanian Mobile Communication (now Telekom Albania) on a landmark smart metering agreement with electricity retail supplier OSHEE, and advising the same client on its tender for 4G licensing. Managing partner Sokol Nako is ‘a very professional lawyer’ and supported by senior associate Denis Selimi.

With its roots in Greece, Drakopoulos Law Firm has many years’ experience in providing cross-border advice across the southern tip of the Balkan peninsula. Recently, Besnik Duraj led the team’s representation of Adriatic Petroleum Platform in its €10m successful tender for the BOT concession of a multi-buoy mooring facility in Porto Romano, Albania. Other clients include Reckitt Benckiser, BP and Hermes.

Haxhia & Hajdari Attorneys at Law is a full-service platform but stands out for its litigation expertise, with high-pedigree partners in Maksim Haxhia, a former General Prosecutor of Albania, and Artan Hajdari, ex-president of the Court of Appeal. The firm also has a track record of advising government bodies and foreign companies on privatisation, concessions and corporate transactions.

Twenty-lawyer firm Optima Legal & Financial attracts transactions of a high calibre. It acted for one of two short-listed buyers on the acquisition of Crédit Agricole Albania, and is advising Greek construction company Ellaktor on the €400m construction of the Tirana-Elbasan highway and tunnel. The firm was selected by UNICEF to assist with reform of Albania’s social care law. Key lawyers include managing partner Ilir Daci, head of corporate Vilma Gjyshi, and head of litigation Fatos Lazimi, who is the only Albanian member of the ICC Court of Arbitration.

Tashko Pustina – attorneys has proven experience of acting for domestic and international clients in heavyweight matters and the firm recently acted for a consortium of banks on the refinancing of a €30m syndicated senior loan. Flonia Tashko and Floran Pustina also advise on cross-border Kosovan transactions via the firm’s Kosovo office.

Italy-headquartered Tonucci & Partners has eight ‘high-quality lawyers’ in Tirana, who undertake ‘first-class work’. Clients include the World Bank and the Albanian government. The partners are Artur Asllani, Neritan Kallfa, Enklid Milaj and Enkelejda Mucaj, who is also a patent and trade mark attorney.

Ballanca Law Office is recognised for its litigation expertise. Name partner Erinda Ballanca is well known in the market for her courtroom success, representing large local companies in a variety of disputes. Clients include oil refiner ARMO and Balkan finance group Balfin.

Recent work undertaken by Bozo & Associates includes restructuring, licensing, concession agreements and litigation on behalf of the local operations of multinational companies. Managing partner Artan Bozo and energy, oil and gas specialist Enida Zeneli are ‘both very professional with a high depth of expertise’; fellow partner Ketrin Topçiu is recommended for environmental and projects.

Gjika & Associates is sector focused, advising on areas such as energy and natural resources, finance, hotels and leisure and TMT. Name partner Gjergji Gjika has niche expertise in gaming.

Athens-headquartered regional firm IKRP Rokas & Partners Albania has been present in Tirana for over a decade. Its Albanian client base includes ALBTelecom and mobile subsidiary Eagle Mobile, which the firm represents in various court matters, and Banka Alpha Albania. Erjola Aliaj is the main contact.

Intellectual property specialist Loloçi & Associates has experienced a rise in instructions recently, as IP work gains momentum in Albania. Name partner Krenar Loloçi is widely considered to be a leader in the field.

Enyal Shuke at ShukeLaw has good standing in the market and considerable experience in general corporate and commercial matters, as well as projects and concessions.

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