Legal market overview
Kosovo has seen little acceleration in business activity during the past year, despite modest growth, and international investment is limited. Corruption remains a sizeable disincentive to invest, particularly in the context of the procurement of major projects.
Several law firms undertake commercial legal work of an international standard, and these report a welcome rise in disputes work in the past year, as well as instructions pertaining to financial and corporate restructuring. In particular, there has been a growth in arbitration, both domestically and internationally. Among the most high profile cases is the proposed arbitration between ACP Axos Capital and the government of Kosovo concerning the former’s 2012 winning tender to purchase a 75% stake in state-owned Post and Telecom of Kosovo (PTK); ACP alleges the government failed to implement the contract.
One firm continues to pave the way in the development of sophisticated commercial law services in Kosovo, namely Pallaska & Associates; it is the firm of choice for numerous global law firms requiring Kosovan advice. Two Albanian firms have satellite offices in Kosovo – of these, Kalo & Associates stands out for its indigenous partners, while main rival Boga & Associates is led by Albanian lawyers. Central and Southeastern Europe regional giant Wolf Theiss earns a place in our ranking for its dedicated Kosovo desk, managed jointly from Vienna and Tirana; the firm has substantial experience in the country.
Pallaska & Associates is ‘most professional’ and dominates the commercial law market, its team of six lawyers providing international-calibre legal services to a largely foreign and multinational client base. It is acting for Switzerland’s Caritas on a number of strategically important matters and recently gained Kosovo’s largest retail bank, ProCredit Bank, as a new client. Other key clients among an extensive portfolio include: ExxonMobil, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Raiffeisen Bank, as well as SharrCem, the country’s largest cement plant. Managing partner Dastid Pallaska has brought overseas experience and training to his family-owned firm and introduced legal specialisation over the more commonly generalist approach. He has a very high profile locally; he was instrumental in the development of arbitration in the country and is in demand for domestic and international cases. Fellow managing partner Gazmend Pallaska is vastly experienced, particularly in the field of intellectual property, where the firm represents clients in relation to over 1,500 trade marks and patents. Adelina Sokoli is another key member of the team and noted for her copyright and media expertise.
Boga & Associates is a multidisciplinary practice headquartered in Albania, offering tax, accounting and legal services, with former links to Big Four accounting firm KPMG. Its Pristina operation, which is small but capable of meeting ‘high international standards’, is led by Sokol Elmazaj. The firm acted for foreign acquirers in a key privatisation and a headline PPP project, and represented the UK operations of a global food company during restructuring, including advising on employment and risk assessment issues. Other recent work includes handling the Kosovan aspects of a $70m acquisition in the pharmaceuticals industry. Clients include the ERBD and the IFC.
Albanian firm Kalo & Associates ‘definitely deserves its high ranking’. It has been present in Kosovo since 2008 and has already built a leading reputation, providing high-quality legal services to a raft of domestic and well-known international companies, such as Unilever, Fox TV, Samsung, Merck and Raiffeisen Bank. Key individuals in Pristina are Ahmet Hasolli and Gazmend Nushi, both of whom are locally trained and experienced partners. Recent work highlights include continuing to advise a global oil company on permits pertaining to radiation and use of explosives.
Wolf Theiss has no on-the-ground presence in Kosovo but has a decade of unbroken experience of advising on key deals in the country, representing investors and government entities. Recently, it acted for Slovenia’s largest brewery, Pivovarna Union, during its €13m sale of shares in Kosovan brewery, Birra Peja. Other work included variously representing a foreign investor in international arbitration; advising on the construction of major green energy infrastructure; and representing banks in the enforcement of loans. New client gains include Serbian petrol manufacturer and supplier, NIS, and Slovenian commercial bank, Factor Banka, adding to an existing client base that includes Austrian State Printing House (OeSD), Western Union and mobilkom Austria. The firm’s dedicated Kosovo desk is led by Vienna-based Christian Mikosch, who has ‘excellent local insight and great knowledge of local specifics and business practices’. He is supported by Sokol Nako, who leads Kosovan projects from Albania.