Legal market overview
Iraq’s oil-dependent economy continued to be troubled by low oil prices, with the resulting lack of revenue in government coffers ensuring that most infrastructure projects stayed on hold. Low oil prices also played a part in a quarrel between Iraq and the semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which saw the KRG ramping up independent sales of oil through the Turkish port at Ceyhan in breach of an agreement struck in December 2014 that gave Iraq’s central government access to revenue from Kurdish oil.
On top of the escalating financial problems, the security situation also worsened, as the Islamic State followed up its capture of Mosul by taking over Ramadi – which lies to the west of Baghdad – in May 2015. Notwithstanding these difficulties – and the ensuing shrinkage in international investment – the mineral-rich region is still regarded as a strong prospect for future opportunities in energy and infrastructure investment.
In addition to the main table of ranked local law firms, this chapter also includes a Foreign firms ranking, which covers international law firms with significant business in or relating to Iraq; as foreign law firms may not practise in Iraq, most of these foreign practices are based in the United Arab Emirates. Coverage of the foreign firms follows that of the locally qualified practices.
At Al Tamimi & Company, Amman-based Khaled Saqqaf leads a team that includes Mohammed Norri in Baghdad and senior associate Haydar Jawad in Erbil. As well as assisting with the reform of various Iraqi government departments, the team has been active in the financial services industry and, for example, advised Noor Islamic Bank on the security for a master murabaha agreement with an oil and gas company.
From its office in Baghdad, Mena Associates in association with Amereller Rechtsanwälte advises on all aspects of commercial and corporate law, with special emphasis on agency and distributorship law and the law on foreign investments. Bawar Bammarny and Tannaz Jourabchi-Eisenhut are key figures in the team.
Praised for its ‘international standards and approach’, Airut Law Offices continued to handle a range of work for Lebanese clients such as Byblos Bank and Tahseen Khayat Group. Serge Airut and Marie Antoinette Airut, both based in Beirut, are advising Firma Medica on the development of a medical city in Erbil. The firm recently added an office in Baghdad to support its well-established offering in Erbil, where partner Tahseen Shekhallah Sheikha is based full-time.
Lauded as ‘providing a level of responsiveness and quality of product which is consistently impressive’, Confluent Law Group enters the ranking for the first time. The sizeable team – which is based in Basra, Baghdad and Erbil – has been busy advising a number of major oil and gas, utility, construction and oil services companies. Greg Englefield heads the team.
Eversheds absorbed Sanad Law Group, giving it offices in Erbil and Baghdad. Amman-based Tawfiq Tabbaa heads the team and is noted as being particularly strong on ‘matters that lack clarity from courts and regulators’. Tabbaa’s team locally includes senior associate Mohamed Al-Khanaty in Baghdad and principal associate Suzan Aziz in Erbil. The team is advising Omniyat Investments and Management in relation to the development of a mixed-use real estate project in Basra and has also been active on behalf of clients such as MOL and Standard Chartered.
At Hannouche Associates, Alain Hannouche has ‘extensive experience in the Iraqi legal market’ and advised an international oil services company on an $11.8m acquisition in Kurdistan. As well as developing its client base, the firm also opened an office in Basra to complement its existing offices in Erbil and Baghdad.
The well-regarded Alaf Attorneys & Consultants, led by founding partner Abdulwahid Alaf, operates out of two offices in Kurdistan, and also has a presence in Baghdad. Alaf’s practice is divided between disputes work and advising international companies on investments in sectors such as telecoms and construction.
Estelle Rami’s team at BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates LLP focuses on assisting foreign investors in Kurdistan. The team has been busy with a range of corporate matters for clients such as Grand Array and Setcore Petroleum Services.
Dler Law Office is particularly known for handling commercial, civil and criminal disputes, but is also active in transactional work, most notably in the oil and gas sector. Erbil-based Dler Saber heads the team.
Firms in the spotlight
Newton Law Group
Newton Law Group is a boutique full-service international law firm providing legal, financial and investment advice to corporations and investors in the Middle East and Africa. Since the establishment of its first office in 1960, the firm has gone through various restructurings and currently employs a sizeable number of internationally-qualified lawyers and multilingual counsels. Newton Law Group has associations with large international and regional law firms for their dealings in Iraq..
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