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Iran’s difficult economic conditions and political turmoil are a serious threat to continued growth in its legal industry. In spite of a favourable new foreign investment law, European companies are not permitted in Iran, with most of the current opportunities restricted to the energy sectors, intellectual property and litigation.
The Iranian legal market remains reserved only to Iranian lawyers. Most law firms in Iran rely heavily on referrals from foreign law firms restricted from practising Iranian law.
As a consequence of the political state of affairs and the aftermath of the global recession, the work available to Iran’s law firms’ work remains significantly reduced. Tehran’s policies are having a directly detrimental effect on foreign export and investment in Iran with major corporations, such as Europe’s largest oil and gas company Royal Dutch Shell shelving its plans to invest in Iran.
The US and UN have passed tough sanctions against the country because of its development of nuclear weapons and support of terrorist groups – a further blow to the legal market, with clients reportedly either winding up their businesses in Iran, or putting on hold their activities. One firm, like many, says it is ‘suffering and struggling to survive’. One senior partner comments that the strict international sanctions are having ‘a devastating impact on all firms dealing with international clients’, and ‘conditions in the courts have also become intolerable for lawyers’.