Legal market overview
Four and a half years after an uprising was launched against President Bashar al-Assad and the Ba’athist regime, the resultant full-scale civil war shows little sign of ending soon. More than 250,000 Syrians have lost their lives in the armed conflict, while over 11 million others have been forced from their homes. More recently, the extremist group Islamic State has taken control of large swathes of territory across northern and eastern Syria.
With the war destroying key assets and essential infrastructure, the country’s significant oil and agriculture sectors are in a state of paralysis; a report published by the UN in March 2015 estimated the total economic loss since the eruption of the conflict at $202bn. Furthermore, because of international sanctions imposed on the country, including increasingly stringent EU measures, investors naturally have been deterred from conducting business with Syria.
Consequently, most of Syria’s law firms are unable to provide full legal advisory services; and while most of them have largely domestic practices, their practitioners have also experienced a significant decline in foreign instructions. Some of Syria’s firms have even closed their offices, while others have moved away from the country’s capital, Damascus.
For now, where the country’s leading legal practices are assisting international clients with Syrian business interests, it is with strategic advice on how best to exit or temporarily suspend their Syrian investments.
Al-Ahmar & Partners, Attorneys and Legal Advisors in association with Amereller Rechtsanwälte has a longstanding reputation for excellence in corporate and commercial law matters, particularly relating to technology transfers, and the establishment of agency or distribution structures and joint ventures. The firm is also recommended for public tender, IP and licensing matters, particularly in the telecoms and IT sectors, and has a strong dispute resolution and arbitration practice. Alissar Al-Ahmar is a key contact.
Hakim Law Firm is well known for having drafted a number of laws in Syria, and is recommended for its expertise in both outbound and domestic M&A. The practice also regularly handles general corporate matters, and has assisted with the incorporation, licensing and registration of international branch offices. Its key practitioner is arbitration and energy specialist Jacques El-Hakim.
‘Best-in-the-field firm’ Sarkis Attorneys at Law ‘provides an unparalleled level of service with timely responses even under pressure, and the advice received is always excellent and takes into consideration the business and commercial interests of companies’. The firm has an impressive list of domestic and international clients, providing advisory services to major private banks, insurance companies and financial intermediaries, and has particular strength in finance work, as well as in disputes for banks and insurance companies. It also stands out for its administrative law expertise, as well as its experience in M&A and corporate group restructurings. Representative recent work includes advising on the establishment of a medical centre, the formation of companies and subsidiaries, and the revision and negotiation of a distribution agreement for high-end automotive and car products, as well as assisting in relation to employment and real estate issues. The ‘practical and straight-to-the-point’ Fadi Sarkis is ‘a particularly excellent lawyer and adviser who is always available to respond to any matter and has excellent knowledge and experience of what he handles’. Suheil Sarkis and Zeina Sarkis are also recommended.
International Legal Bureau is recommended for its corporate and commercial practice. It is also noted for its experience in IP matters, banking and finance deals, and arbitration.
Currently practising from its Dubai office, Karawani Law Firm was founded in 1994 by Osama Karawani and acts for clients ranging from private individuals to domestic and international corporations. Mohamad Karawani acts on employment law matters, as well as real estate and tourism projects, and also has extensive experience in high-profile litigation.
Full-service firm Oussi Law Firm covers administrative law, contractual matters and financing deals, as well as international law, IP and employment law matters. It also has a notable tax, construction and insurance law practice, and has impressive contacts with other law firms elsewhere in the Middle East and also in Europe and the US. The ‘reactive’ Gabriel Oussi is noted for his dedication to achieving clients’ goals, and ‘provides excellent support and skilled legal advice, with all responses arriving promptly’.
Sultans Law’s key practice areas are commercial advisory, corporate law, dispute resolution and real estate. Representative experience includes advising a multinational bank on privatisation issues; assisting a high-profile US corporation with the multimillion-dollar acquisition of a substantial equity stake in a Middle Eastern beverage corporation; and advising Overseas Food Trading on structuring the acquisition of a food processing plant. Cairo-based managing partner Samer Sultan has substantial experience in cross-border M&A, restructuring and securities transactions; he also heads the firm’s dispute resolution practice, and in recent years has represented a leading Turkish agribusiness company in a multimillion-dollar arbitration enforcement dispute.
Legal Business: country analysis
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