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Legal market overview
Political uncertainty in Kuwait, coupled with an economy that has felt the ripple effects of the global downturn, have undoubtedly had an impact on the willingness of international corporates to invest in the country, in spite of the 2010 development plan, which aimed, among other things, to attract foreign investment.
Restructuring work continues to keep lawyers busy, most notably in the heavily over-leveraged investment sector. The demise of the investment sector has also led to knock-on effects on the financing side, as this was one area where loans were regularly dispensed.
In common with other jurisdictions, Kuwaiti banks have taken a cautious approach to lending and only do so when the creditworthiness of a company is particularly strong. Corporates have had to find other means of securing financing, and this caused a significant uptick of activity on the bond markets.
Recently passed PPP legislation has led to a pipeline of infrastructure, rail and energy projects, and although the government has made the right noises for increased private participation in the economy, it remains cautious and sometimes obstructive. A number of law firms in the country are engaged in work for either private participants or a government entity; much of it is in the very formative stages, although the Al Zour IWPP project is a notable exception.
Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP in association with Mashora Advocates and Legal Consultants is the most recent foreign law firm to open up in the region, following David Pfeiffer’s arrival in March 2012. It joins Pfeiffer’s former firm International Legal Group in association with SNR Denton & Co (previously known as The Law Office of Dr Ahmad Al-Samdan in association with SNR Denton & Co) and DLA Piper Kuwait in Association with (NEN) Al-Wagayan, Al Awadhi and Al-Saif.
ASAR – Al Ruwayeh & Partners (In Association with Stephenson Harwood) remains the leading domestic law firm, and draws on a strong mix of Kuwaiti and internationally qualified lawyers.