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Editorial

Libya’s economy has been in recession since 2013. The country’s political impasse and the ongoing civil conflict is preventing it from fully exploiting its substantial oil resources; in 2016, Libya’s oil production levels dropped for the fourth consecutive year and GDP fell by approximately 8.3% in 2016.

Furthermore, in October 2016, Tripoli militias, led by Khalifa al-Ghwell (former prime minister of the national salvation government) attempted a coup against Libya’s United Nations-backed government, which led to the most serious crisis faced by the Government of National Accord since it was established in 2015.

International investors with commercial interests in Libya, nonetheless, remain in need of solid legal assistance from the country’s law firms. This chapter only ranks law firms with offices on the ground in Libya, but the foreign desks of international law firms are also mentioned at the end of the editorial.

The most significant recent development in the legal market occurred when international law firm Clyde & Co LLP, which became the first international law firm to open in the country in 2012, closed its office in Libya in 2016 in light of the increasing political instability.

In addition to fielding expertise in employment, insurance, tax and dispute resolution, Al-Kilani & Gheblawi Law Firm has a strong reputation for its oil-sector legal expertise. Mohamed Al-Kilani continues to advise on oil and gas sales contracts and oil concessions; he also assists oil and gas company clients with contentious matters, including tax issues.

MTL Law Office is well known for advising an impressive international client base on establishing representative offices in Libya, and for its significant regulatory expertise. Other matters which the firm has traditionally handled include investment projects and banking and finance. Co-founding partner Salah Marghani is recommended for international commercial law.

At Mukhtar-Kelbash and Elgharabli Attorneys, Abdudayem Elgharabli has significant expertise assisting international oil companies with their oil and gas issues; he is particularly noted for his advice on Libya’s petroleum, foreign investment and corporate laws, and for handling exploration and production sharing agreements (EPSA). He has also acted for overseas construction, telecoms, aviation and defence companies. Representative experience includes representing foreign oil companies on contentious tax matters and successfully assisting an airline operator with a major administrative law case. Mahmud Mukhtar is also recommended for transactional and contentious matters, particularly in relation to the oil and gas sector.

Tumi Law Firm, which has had an association with global law firm Dentons since 2010, advises on a range of corporate issues, covering business start-ups such as partnerships, joint stock companies and limited liability companies, and also handles shareholder agreements and disputes. The team’s robust oil and gas expertise covers EPSA contracts and oil rig financings. The firm also handles a variety of soft and contentious IP matters, including trade marks, patents, trade names and copyright, and advises on investment law, aviation and maritime matters, real estate transactions and labour law. On the contentious front, the firm has represented clients at all levels in Libya, including the Supreme Court and before arbitration tribunals. Managing partner Mohamed Tumi has substantial experience in oil and gas deals, civil and public works contracts, international business transactions, and regulatory issues concerning the manufacturing sector. Mazen Tumi is recommended for oil and gas transactions, project finance, securitisations and commercial disputes. Senior legal counsel Mohamed Najjar is noted for commercial disputes, aircraft leases, bank guarantees and international commercial transactions. At senior associate level, Islam Elmasry handles joint ventures, restructurings, project finance and M&A, as well as corporate governance, private equity deals and insurance litigation. Associate Fatima Al-Shukri is a specialist in civil aviation regulations and dispute resolution, including contentious labour law and debt collection.

Majeri Law Office advises on commercial, civil and employment law matters, in addition to banking and investment deals, customs matters and taxation. It assists clients with company formation and registration, contract drafting and negotiation, contentious tax matters and debt recovery. In dispute resolution, the team has handled matters at every court level, including the Supreme Court. Sghair Majeri is the key partner.

Italian firm P&A Legal advises international businesses on the establishment and incorporation of Libyan companies, joint ventures, commercial and company law, and real estate deals. The firm is also noted for its expertise in arbitration cases, tax issues and IP matters. Paolo Greco is highly rated.

Several international law firms continue to run Libya desks from offices outside the country. Herbert Smith Freehills LLP is particularly recommended for energy law and sanctions issues; in late 2016, the firm’s London dispute resolution team successfully defended Goldman Sachs in a $1.2bn derivatives trading case brought by the Libya Investment Authority. At Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Pervez Akhtar, Dubai-based regional managing partner for the MENA region, is recommended for his advice to regional and international private equity houses and corporations on their Libyan investments.

Other firms with active Libya practices include the following:

King & Spalding LLP has over ten years’ experience advising on large and mid-sized deals in Libya – the team, led by Paris-based Mehdi Haroun, continues to play a key role for clients with business in the country, particularly in relation to the oil and gas sector.

Eversheds Sutherland fields international arbitration and oil and gas expert David Sellers and of counsel Nanette Pilkington, whose experience includes advising an oil company on its participation in EPSA agreements in Libya.

At Hogan Lovells International LLP, London-based, Libyan-qualified counsel Tarek Eltumi assisted a Libyan sovereign entity on the restructuring of a high-value investment portfolio, advised a European bank on ship acquisition financing in Libya, and acted for an international company involved in independent water and power plants, renewable energy and environmental projects on the formation of a project development joint venture with the Libyan Investment Authority. On the contentious side, Eltumi has represented Libyan clients in significant claims before England’s High Court and the International Court of Arbitration in Paris.

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