Proelium Law launches a presence in Iraq
An interview with Adrian Powell, partner and head of Proelium Law, Iraq.
Q. Why has Proelium Law decided to launch a presence in Iraq?
Adrian: “The origins of the idea of Proelium Law are from Iraq. I was there from 2006 and from 2008 working for a large security company as a legal advisor, it struck me that there was a need for a law firm specialising in the legal issues arising from operating in such high-risk jurisdictions.
The clients we have since attracted repeatedly prove my initial thoughts right. Our experience of having worked in country; our knowledge of Iraqi business practice and customs, combined with our knowledge of local and international law ensures we are uniquely placed to provide highly relevant and effective advice. So, having launched Proelium Law in London in 2015, from where we initially provided our Iraq-specific services, it was a natural development to now have an Iraq-based presence.”
Q. Is there a Proelium Law Iraq office?
Adrian: “Not as yet. For now, we operate from the Baghdad offices of our Iraq consultant, Dr Wadhah Al Safi from where we provide legal services Iraq-wide.
I am however visiting Iraq this January  to investigate the opportunities available for a dedicated Proelium Law office – so watch this space!”
Q. What do Proelium Law’s Iraq legal services comprise?
Adrian: “In conjunction with Dr Wadhah, we provide mainly commercial, corporate and litigation advice.”
Q. Tell me about Dr Wadhah Al Safi – what experience does he have in dealing with the legal affairs of companies doing business in Iraq?
Adrian: “Dr. Wadhah is an Iraq national, and is a qualified lawyer and experienced legal practitioner. He specialises in commercial legal matters relating to international companies operating and registered in Iraq. He also has expertise in Intellectual Property and is licensed to register trademarks in Iraq by the Iraq Supreme Judicial Council and by the Companies Registration Department at the Ministry of Trade.”
“In addition, his background as a geologist means that he is well-versed with the oil sector, so can ably assist extractives clients already operating in, or seeking to do business in Iraq. He speaks both his native Arabic language and also fluent English.”
Q. What experience do you have in providing legal services to businesses and individuals operating in Iraq?
Adrian: “My experience is broad and varied. Initially, I was a lawyer working with the US Military, then the legal advisor for a large private security company which encompassed the full scope of commercial activities in Baghdad.
My role also had a criminal law aspect to it, and encompassed a lot of international law. I held a similar role when I was the team leader for a project for the Iraq Ministry of Foreign affairs which dealt with international negotiations.“
Q. Where can clients find broader legal advice, if required?
Adrian: “We have a close relationship with Top 100 UK-based law firm, Harrison Clark Rickerbys, who provide a full range of legal advisory services including employment law, real estate and legal advice for individuals from their 7 UK offices. Many of their clients operate internationally, and therefore they are used to operating across different time zones and jurisdictions.”
Q. What is the nature of your clients’ business interests?
Adrian: “Most of our current clients are involved in private security or NGO’s although we do have clients who we deal with property disputes with . However, we also have a growing client based in the development and extractives sector. We hope to support the insurance industry in due course. Our principal focus will be on international companies at first.”
Q. What do you charge for legal services – are they equivalent to other Iraq-based legal services – or should we expect UK-based pricing?
Adrian: “Iraq prices for legal services are high. Consequently, there can be a reluctance for businesses to take legal advice. A lack of correct advice can lead to all sorts of potential issues. As we have a low cost-base, we offer our Iraq legal services at UK prices, ensuring that they are accessible to all, including small to medium-sized businesses.”
Q. Do you have any ‘added value’ services planned, such as seminars etc?
Adrian: “Once we’ve established ourselves, we will be giving thought to providing additional free or low-cost services to clients and contacts, such as seminars, training and networking opportunities. We have a similar provision at our London office, and our clients find this highly beneficial.
As well as potentially running our own seminars and training sessions, we will be getting out and about to meet business owners and managers, including attending Iraq-based expos such as those relating to the oil and gas industry. We’re also looking forward to Dubai 2020 which will be a tremendous event, attracting many from within the industries to which we serve.”
“One of our ‘added value’ tools, however, is our Legal Risk Map. It aims to help businesses quickly identify legal risks, and comprises a review of an organisation’s legal health, revising how well the legal infrastructure covers the business across 11 themes, such as corporate structures, policies, commercial contracts, duty of care, use of weapons and insurance. It has proved a highly popular not least because the initial process is completely free and without obligation.”
Finally, why would clients wish to use Proelium Law’s services in Iraq?
Adrian: “We aren’t a UK law firm that simply employs local lawyers, we are a London law firm that sends its London lawyers to Iraq as well.
We are the foremost UK legal authority on hostile environments – that we actually work in these places contributes significantly to our ability to provide the very best advice.”
“Our experience of having worked in country; our knowledge of Iraqi business practice and customs, combined with our knowledge of local and international law ensures we are uniquely placed to provide highly relevant and effective advice”.
If you’d like further information, or to discuss working with us, you can get in touch via our Contact Us page