Legal market overview
- Arte Law Firm
- Colibri Law Firm
- Kalikova & Associates Law Firm
- Koan Lorenz
- Veritas Law Agency
- Denis Bagrov - Colibri Law Firm
- Aisulu Chubarova - Arte Law Firm
- Gulnara Kalikova - Kalikova & Associates Law Firm
- Ulan Tilenbaev - Kalikova & Associates Law Firm
Kyrgyzstan joined the Eurasian Economic Union, a common market with Russia and others, in August 2015, leading to hopes that it will be able to benefit from regional integration. Parliamentary elections successfully took place on 4 October 2015 and were described as ‘competitive’ by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
None of the major international firms have set up offices in Kyrgyzstan, but a number of regional CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) and national firms handle high-value work for major national and international clients. Belgian firm Koan Lorenz – formed by a merger in April 2015 – has an office in Bishkek, which is notable as the only presence of a non-CIS foreign firm in the market. Mining is a key source of work for the legal profession and the Kumtor gold mine alone accounted for 7.5% of the country’s GDP in 2014; it continues to be a subject of political debate and possible nationalisation. The agricultural sector is another key economic driver but is not a source of large mandates.
The ranking is based on quality and scope of service. Therefore, narrowly focused practices may be ranked lower in the table than a quality competitor with a broader base but may still be considered outstanding in its field.
Full-service firm Arte Law Firm has ‘no equal in the field of copyright’ and is ‘very reliable for IP matters’. Its team ‘always acts professionally’ and is ‘very good at assessing the risks of any potential project, which speaks of its deep knowledge of Kyrgyz law’. Since 2011, the firm has been advising the estate of Chinghiz Aitmatov, one of Kyrgyzstan’s and the former Soviet Union’s most celebrated authors, on copyright matters. The firm also acts for various clients in the mining and tourism sectors, including Radisson Hotels International, for which it handled a trade mark dispute with a local infringer. Other clients include Microsoft, which it advises on anti-piracy measures. Aisulu Chubarova, who is ‘able to reveal all aspects of a problem and offer clients the most suitable solution’, advises regular client Air Manas on a range of matters, which have included the acquisition of two Boeing aircraft, as well as wet lease agreements and fuel purchases. Omurgul Balpanova provides ‘excellent advice – she is very responsive, fast and cooperative’; along with Saodat Shakirova, she advised Kyrgyz-Swiss Bank on a convertible loan transaction. ‘Very professional and highly qualified’ senior attorney Liliia Kim advises on corporate, commercial and tax matters.
Colibri Law Firm is marked out for its strong ‘response times and legal knowledge’, most notably in the context of corporate transactions, financings and market entry. Zhanyl Abdrakhmanova, who leads the corporate and M&A practice, advised the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) and another major lender on loan security regulations. She also advised a major international law firm on the Kyrgyz aspects of a restructuring of operations at the Kumtor gold mine and has acted as an independent country expert for the United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank and the British government’s Department for International Development. Kerim Begaliev, who provided Kyrgyz legal advice to a Korean investor on the financing of a residential construction project, is also recommended. Denis Bagrov leads the mining practice and the Bishkek office as a whole.
Kalikova & Associates Law Firm advises a strong roster of Kyrgyz and international clients on a range of commercial matters. Name partner Gulnara Kalikova advised Centerra Gold, the Canadian owners of the Kumtor mine, on a range of matters including environmental claims, licensing issues, dispute resolution and land use rights. She also advised USAID on the drafting of a new minerals development strategy for the country. In the M&A practice, managing partner Ulan Tilenbaev advised Rosneft on investments in a chain of petrol stations. Alexander Ahn, who leads the banking, microfinance and insurance practice, advises international investors. Other areas of work include competition law, financing, public procurement, hydrocarbons and intellectual property.
Koan Lorenz was created when Belgian firms Koan and Lorenz merged in 2015; it has retained what was Lorenz’s office in Bishkek, where it represents clients in litigation and arbitration, and advises on employment law, corporate matters and M&A. Niyaz Aldashev, who is also a member of the Brussels Bar, is the managing partner of the Bishkek office and head of the mining team. Senior associate Kymbat Ibakova leads the employment practice.
Veritas Law Agency advises on project finance, M&A, construction and dispute resolution matters. Managing partner Elena Babitskaya provided legal support to investees of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development on loan agreements for facilities totalling over $4m. Nikolay Malyshev represented a client in a $4m property dispute with the Kyrgyz government and Elena Bit-Avragim advised on the $2m sale of an oil business to an international investor. Other clients include Philip Morris Tobacco and Bai-Tushum Bank.