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Iraq’s post-war economic recovery suffered a severe setback during 2014 following the rise of the militant group now known as the Islamic State, which took over Mosul, the second-largest city in the country, in June and has since gained control of around one-third of Iraq.

Nonetheless, Iraq’s oil industry continues to perform well. In September 2014, the country’s oil exports climbed to 2.534m barrels per day (bpd), compared to the 2.38m bpd reached in August. Unsurprisingly, oil and gas-related work remains the core driver of legal business in the country.

Foreign lawyers may only practise in the jurisdiction if reciprocal arrangements exist in their home country. However, a clutch of international law firms maintain a presence in Iraq through other Middle East offices. Most notably, US-headquartered law firms Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, Baker Botts L.L.P. and Vinson & Elkins LLP as well as UK-based firm Clifford Chance and UK-Australian firm Herbert Smith Freehills LLP have all undertaken significant Iraq-related work recently. A sizeable group of Lebanese law firms also enjoy a prominent position in Iraq and El-Aref Law Office stands out in that regard.

Al Tamimi & Company is ‘a leading firm throughout the region’ and its Iraq practice is headed by Khaled Saqqaf, who splits his time between Iraq and Jordan. The firm’s enviable Middle East platform ensures that it fields the necessary resources to staff large deals and it excels in privatisations, corporate and banking transactions, infrastructure projects and dispute resolution. Saqqaf recently advised Standard Chartered Bank on its establishment of branches in Iraq and the Kurdistan Governorates.

Iraq Law Alliance is widely considered to be ‘the gold standard’ in Iraq. The firm’s focus on advising national and multinational clients on corporate and reconstruction matters means that the oil and gas and infrastructure sectors provide the bulk of instructions. It also has strength in supplementary areas such as tax, employment and regulatory issues. US-qualified firm founder, Thomas Donovan, has an excellent profile in the market and his team has strong local law capability.

Among the most active law firms in Iraq’, Mena Associates in association with Amereller Rechtsanwälte specialises in advising on foreign investment matters, leveraging its extensive network of offices across Germany and the Middle East. Abdelrahman Sherif, who divides time between Baghdad and Cairo, is recommended for M&A and real estate deals.

Airut Law Offices has a broad practice encompassing banking, M&A, construction, project management and real estate. Among the firm’s recent highlights, Marie Antoinette Airut and Serge Airut advised Malia Group on the development of a ceramics factory in Erbil.

At Hannouche Associates, the ‘experienced’ and ‘solution-oriented’ Alain Hannouche has a strong track record in advising regional and international investors on corporate and regulatory matters. Highlights included advising an offshore oil company on its acquisition of an oil services company in Erbil.

Sanad Law Group (in association with Eversheds KSLG) has offices in Baghdad and Erbil, providing comprehensive coverage of the region through close links to its wider Middle East network. Tawfiq Tabbaa advised Standard Chartered Bank on the financing of an industrial facility.

From its offices in Sulaymaniyah, Erbil, Baghdad and Kirkuk, Alaf Attorneys & Consultants advises national and multinational corporations, financial institutions and governments on the full spread of legal matters in Iraq and Kurdistan. Abdulwahid Alaf is recommended.

In August 2014, Dler Law Office launched a new office in The Hague to capitalise on increasing trade between Iraq and Europe. Name partner Dler Saber provides ongoing advice to the British Consulate-General in Erbil.

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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