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2011 marked the beginning of an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad and the Ba’athist regime that has plunged Syria into an ongoing civil war, resulting in the loss of more than 250,000 lives and sparking a refugee crisis that has caused the displacement of half of Syria’s population.

The country’s infrastructure and economy have been significantly damaged by the conflict; the country’s manufacturing and agriculture sectors have been particularly affected, while oil production has substantially dropped and significant numbers of oil fields are under Islamic State control.

The country’s legal market has historically been dominated by domestic law practices; foreign law firms have only been permitted to practise on an indirect basis through associations with local law firms. Examples include Al-Ahmar & Partners, Attorneys and Legal Advisors in association with Amereller Rechtsanwälte.

A number of Syrian legal practices are still advising their international client base on how best to protect their investments, but even Syria’s top law firms are no longer able to operate as they did prior to the conflict.

The Damascus office of Al-Ahmar & Partners, Attorneys and Legal Advisors in association with Amereller Rechtsanwälte stands out for technology transfers, agency and distribution structures, taxation, joint ventures and public tenders. The firm also acts for IT and telecoms clients on IP matters, and has a robust litigation and arbitration practice. Alissar Al-Ahmar and of counsel Kanaan Al Ahmar, who splits his time between Damascus and Munich, are recommended.

Hakim Law Firm handles the full range of corporate and commercial matters, and is recommended for M&A, banking and finance transactions, IP issues, real estate deals, insurance matters and dispute resolution. Jacques El-Hakim has assisted with the drafting and amendment of key legislation, and is recommended for arbitration and energy matters. Clients include Syrian telecoms companies and mobile phone operators, oil and gas exploration and production companies, and companies in the pharmaceuticals, banking, construction, transportation and insurance sectors.

For some, Sarkis Attorneys at Law is ‘the best firm in Syria; it provides excellent, knowledgeable advice and is very honest’. Senior partner Fadi Sarkis is ‘a sharp lawyer and trusted business adviser who provides the highest quality service’; he has ‘truly exceptional knowledge of Syrian and foreign laws and always strives to get the best results for clients’. Non-contentious work has included advising on hospitality sector related contractual and tax issues, and assisting with corporate and debt restructuring matters for banking and corporate clients. On the contentious front, the firm acted for an energy company in an insurance claim and represented a client in a dispute arising from the termination of an agency agreement. Bank Audi Syria, Holdal Group Lebanon, Air France, Makiber and Garbuio are among the firm’s clients. Other key figures include commercial law and dispute resolution expert Suheil Sarkis, Zeina Sarkis, who is a commercial, corporate, telecoms and banking law expert, and senior associate Salem Bitar, who is noted for litigation and commercial matters.

International Legal Bureau advises on business and company law, administrative law, IP and IT law, tax law and securities law. Sector strengths include energy, mining, shipping, healthcare and insurance. Oil and gas specialist Mazen Khaddour and banking law expert Moussa Mitry are highly rated advisers.

Oussi Law Firm’s full-service practice is recommended for its administrative, civil and contract law expertise. The firm also has longstanding experience in financings, IP infringement matters, employment law, and construction and taxation issues. It also has noteworthy insurance sector knowledge and handles debt collection matters. Gabriel Oussi is the key name.

Sultans Law is active on corporate and commercial transactions and handles real estate deals, international trade matters, insurance-sector issues, and oil and gas work. The firm’s non-contentious track record includes assisting international corporations with high-value acquisitions of regional businesses, while its disputes workload covers IP disputes, civil litigation and ADR work. In addition to his dispute resolution expertise, managing partner Samer Sultan, who is currently based in the firm’s Cairo office, is well known for corporate, capital markets and restructuring matters.

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