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Al Tamimi & Company: Advising Qatari Companies On The Way Forward Established by Essam Al Tamimi in Dubai in 1989, Al Tamimi & Company is today the largest law firm in the Middle East.

By Erika Widen

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"As our business and regional footprint continues to grow, we seek to expand further in line with our commitment to meet the needs of clients doing business across the Middle East," says Ahmed Jaafir, Senior Associate of Al Tamimi & Company. Established by Essam Al Tamimi in Dubai in 1989, Al Tamimi & Company is today the largest law firm in the Middle East. In 2004, the firm opened its Qatar office in association with advocate Mohammed Al Marri, with the Qatar Financial Centre Authority also licensing the firm. At present, Al Tamimi & Company have offices in nine countries, which include Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Oman and Saudi Arabia, to name a few. "We continue to explore growth through our entry into new jurisdictions within Europe, the Middle East and Africa Region (EMEA)."

According to Jaafir, Al Tamimi & Company specializes in advising and supporting major international corporations, banking and financial institutions, in addition to governmental organizations, local, regional and international companies in Qatar. "As a full service law firm, we specialize in a range of practice areas– each being a genuine strength," Jaafir explains. "We provide not only professional expertise but superior client service and quality strategic advice. We combine internationally qualified and experienced lawyers with lawyers who have deep local roots. Along with this, the ability to practice local law in each of the jurisdictions we are present- rights of audience before local courts, and licensed litigators in each or our offices, really sets us apart."

In Qatar, Al Tamimi & Company focuses on a number of sectors, namely in the field of banking and finance, commercial advisory, construction and infrastructure, corporate structuring, employment, equity capital markets, family business, hospitality, intellectual property, litigation, mergers and acquisitions and property. "This is due to the fact that there are many infrastructure related projects taking place in Qatar by Qatari and non-Qatari companies, and as Qatar's economy is expanding rapidly, you will find most of the clients interested in receiving legal advice in such fields." Jaafir notes how foreign investors may invest in all sectors of national economy provided that they must have Qatari partner(s) whose share in the capital should not be less than 51% (50% in case of GCC nationals), and the company is legally established in accordance with the provisions of the law.

Ahmed Jaafir, Senior Associate, Al Tamimi & Company. Image credit: Al Tamimi & Company.

"Nevertheless, foreign investors may, upon Minister's decision, increase their share in project capital from 49% up to 100% in the fields of agriculture, industry, health, education, tourism, development and exploitation of natural resources, energy or mining, information technology, technical and consultancy services and entertainment, sport and cultural services and distribution services," says Jaafir. However, he underlines how it is prohibited for foreign investment to invest in banks and insurance companies as well as commercial agency and sale and purchase in real estate. Jaafir adds that international clients' major concern is about having a Qatari partner owning the majority of the shares, and says that there is scope for an agreement that may provide a foreign entity to in fact own more than 49%. "There are joint venture tools that can be used in a limited liability company structure that go some way to improving the foreign shareholder's position without committing a breach of the Foreign Investment Law and the Proxy Law."

With regard to entrepreneurs from the Gulf region, Jaafir explains how they need to obtain legal advice on the best structure available to establish their legal entity in Qatar, in addition to having the various contracts related to the establishment of such an entity reviewed by a legal counsel before execution to maintain maximum protection, in light of the applicable laws in Qatar. "Young Qatari entrepreneurs eager to set up a business in Qatar need to study the market well and prepare proper project analysis and a feasibility study– including all costs related to the establishment of their business."

Jaafir also mentions that in order to ensure that Al Tamimi & Company are nurturing and contributing to the future of the firm's environment and talent pool, it is investing in the community and legal education. "For instance, the firm has worked closely with the Young Arab Leaders program and invests financial and human resource in various pro-bono activities," he says. "We have also established a formal pro-bono program. We believe that investment in such areas is key if we are to sustain our mission." The firm has a clear mission to be recognized as the law firm of choice in the Middle East, operating to international standards and delivering superior legal advice to their clients, whilst maintaining and protecting their Arab identity.

"Our mission "to be the law firm on choice in the Middle East' extends to our employees as well as our clients," Jaafir says. "We believe that in order to recruit and retain the best lawyers in the market we must provide a rewarding and engaging working environment. Al Tamimi is a local firm in every jurisdiction in which it operates and so has no challenges in terms of knowledge of specific local laws and does not need to consult others concerning the same."

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