The FINANCIAL -- The FINANCIAL researched market information on the leading law firms actively practicing in business law through inquiring major business entities about their legal advisers and came up with a list of the top 5 law firms in Georgia.
As DLA Piper Gvinadze & Partners LP is the only international law firm in Georgia, it comes as no surprise that it is ranked as best legal service provider in the country based on all possible parameters. The fact that the annual revenue of the DLA Piper Tbilisi office has grown 300% since December 2005 speaks for itself.
“This is a testimony not only to DLA Piper’s success in the market, but also to the growth of the market as a whole - the macro economical success, that Georgia has experienced in these past two years. The growth of the Georgian economy has been astonishing, particularly the increase in foreign investment and the growth in domestic business as well. This has helped our business a great deal, since all those foreign investors and growing Georgian businesses need legal services,” declared Ted Jonas, Office Managing Partner.
For the first time, with a total of 3,623 lawyers in 64 offices in 25 countries DLA Piper has ranked # 1 on The National Law Journal annual list of the nation’s largest law firms, based on the number of lawyers.
DLA Piper was formed in early 2005 by the three-way merger between DLA LLP, Piper Rudnick LLP and Gray Cary Ware and Friedenrich LLP.
“DLA Piper is globally unique because of the speed and dynamism with which it has grown in just a couple of years and its entrepreneurial international leadership. The firm has also been very successful in recruiting lawyers in Europe and the US from other leading firms.”
DLA Piper is acting for the Georgian government in two international Arbitration Cases, one regarding alleged expropriation of foreign investors’ alleged rights and property with respect to an energy pipeline, the other case regarding the alleged expropriation of foreign investment in a steel plant.
The firm has provided a wide range of corporate and finance transaction legal work for TBC Bank - one of the leading Georgian banks with total assets standing above USD 1 billion, and legal work for BP on all the pipeline projects carried out in Georgia.
“BP has historically been our largest and longest serving client. I am very proud of the 12 year history we have with BP. DLA Piper has been involved in all three: Baku-Supsa Pipeline, Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) and South Caucasus (SCP) pipeline projects. We have been working with BP from the drafting and negotiation of project documents with the Georgian government and negotiation and ratification of international agreements to representing BP in dozens of cases in the Georgian courts.”
DLA Piper has acted as Georgian counsel of JSC Bank of Georgia on their very successful IPO and Eurobond offerings on the London Stock Exchange, acted for Ferrerro on acquisition of land and implementation of investments for their large hazelnut growing and processing operation being developed in Georgia, GRDC - a leading real estate and development company in Georgia, on a wide range of corporate and finance transactions legal work, as well as privatizations, Silk Road Group and Bank Turan Alem on privatization.
“We have many other clients that are well known Georgian and international companies, whose names we cannot publicly disclose. We also represent many smaller companies and private individuals who are not necessarily well known, but are still our valued clients. We sometimes act for such lesser known companies in very large and significant transactions,” said Jonas “Some of our matters, for example a lot of work we do for TBC Bank and GRDC, as well as our work for the Georgian government on international arbitration cases, are completed in close connection with other offices of DLA Piper in Europe and the United States, including London, Amsterdam and New York.”
“If we break it down into legal service lines, the 3 most common are corporate, finance and litigation, including local Georgian courts and international arbitration. If you look at it in terms of the economic sector, the biggest area of business is unquestionably real estate. In other words, real estate is the substance of legal work. The kind of legal work we are doing in relation to real estate is often corporate, finance, or the straight out purchase of real estate, whether from the government in privatization or in a private sector sale from private seller.
The DLA Piper Tbilisi office headcount of 28 people is comprised of 17 lawyers. Ted Jonas and Nick Gvinadze are the partners of the firm.
“Recruiting and keeping the best quality people we can find is the highest priority for me in business. When we are looking for new talent, we tend to look toward the NGOs and public sector and for people who are just finishing a foreign graduate law degree. We rarely hire someone straight out of Georgian University as a lawyer. We want them to have some practice experience, and particularly strong English language skills. If we hire someone straight out of university, we hire them as a paralegal and then, if they do well, promote them through the ranks to trainee and then associate. We don’t actively try to recruit lawyers from competing Georgian law firms.”
DLA is financing a pre-moot trip of the team from Tbilisi State University Law faculty, to Riga, Latvia. Pre-moot will provide the team with the opportunity to practice the presentation of their argument, before ultimately travelling to Vienna for the actual Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot, a prestigious annual international moot court competition. The object of the Vis Arbitral Moot is to foster study in the areas of international commercial and arbitration laws and encourage the resolution of business disputes by arbitration.
“We have been responding to the needs of clients from the Georgian business environment for over 7 years. Being one of the oldest Georgian firms, we undertake a wide variety of commercial, corporate and tax work, nationally and internationally. BLC has extensive experience in managing complex, multi-party international actions and transactions,” said Alexandre Bolkvadze, founding partner of BLC professional legal services.
Apart from off-counsels and 3 advisors, the BLC team comprises of 3 managing partners: Ketti Kvartshava LLM, Alexander Bolkvadze LLM, Levan Dadiani LLM, 3 Senior Associates, 6 Associates, 3 Paralegals and 2 Tax and Customs Specialists.
“Our main principle is efficient team work, knowledge of the specific business where our clients operate, confidentiality and attorney- client privilege. We are dedicated to the best interests of our clients and have respect for deadlines,” Bolkvadaze declared.
Some of BLC representative clients are: HSBC Bank Georgia (UK-Georgia) - one of the largest banking and financial services organizations in the world with an international network comprising of over 10,000 offices in 83 countries that has just entered the Georgian banking market with the Supervisory Capital of the Georgian bank in the amount of USD 10 million.
BNP Paribas (switzerland), TBC Bank (Georgia), Deutsche Bank (Germany), EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development), TAV Operation services (Turkey), CITI group (UK), RAO UES (Russia), Sesecam (Turkey), CRS (USA), CARE (USA), BP Exploration (Caspian Sea) Limited, and BTC (Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan) Pipeline Company are also clients of BLC.
BLC provides legal services in corporate and commercial transactions, with principal areas of expertise covering company formation and joint ventures through venture capital, M&A, splitting, corporate reconstructions, credit facilities, assurance of securities, and various types of financings.
BLC offers counselling and representation in banking and finance, in the process of their registration, acquisition of the license, mergers and acquisition of shares, complex financing deals, securities and pledges, analysis and diligence studies. BLC has been appointed as a council in the Micro-Finance Development Sector Project to the government of Georgia. The firm is active in real estate transaction and privatization.
“Currently, as construction and real estate is booming in Georgia, BLC has the most extensive practice entailing transactions over medium and large assets involving private parties or the government. We also have a broad record of representation in the privatization process of a number of state-owned entities and land,” said Bolkvadze.
BLC also practices in TAX and Customs Law, Employment Law, Energy and Oil & Gas Law, Telecommunications Law, Intellectual Property Law, and Civil Litigation and International Dispute settlement.
BLC is the only Georgian law-firm with international practice operating a branch in Batumi (Adjara Autonomous Republic of Georgia).
As Alexandre Bolkvadze told The FINANCIAL, they regard BGI one of their main competitors since both companies maintain the same level of high standards in legal service.
BGI Legal is part of BGI Advisory Services Georgia, an international advisory services group based in Georgia. BGI provides legal service in the energy and power sector, project and trade finance, banking and securities, privatization and government relations, diplomatic missions, joint ventures, contracts corporate structuring, real estate, property and land matters, general litigation and arbitration, telecommunications, intellectual property, tax and customs, corporate registrations and incorporation, and criminal law.
The firm has worked on a range of transactional matters, and has also carried out a significant amount of government-related work, and real estate transactions on behalf of foreign embassies. BGI has worked on some of the country’s largest deals, including the privatization of a gold-mining concern, which was bought by a Russian-based investor group. Lawyers have also advised a US government agency regarding the privatization of energy assets. Additional clients are BP Exploration (Caspian Sea) and its affiliated companies (BTC, SCP and GPC); BAT; Bechtel; Chevron; Metromedia International Group; IFC; Tbilisi International Airport; Embassies of the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Germany and France.
The firm has been appointed as sole legal advisor to the Millennium Challenge Georgia Fund (MCG) which will deliver a USD 295.3 million funding program into Georgia, focused on improving Georgia’s infrastructure and the environment for inward investment. Projects planned include roads rehabilitation, energy, tourism, and funding for small businesses.
BGI headcount includes 3 partners: Lasha Gogiberidze, Zaza Bibilashvili, Giorgi Kavlahvili, 8 associates and 3 paralegals.
“We have particularly strong transactional expertise, including contract, negotiations and corporate structuring work in a variety of privatization, direct investment, secured lending and joint-venture projects in such areas as energy, telecommunications, banking and financial services, transportation and infrastructure, real estate development and construction,” company representatives declare.
BGI clients include British American Tobacco, British Petroleum, Unocal, Anglo-Georgian Petroleum, Bechtel, Pernod Ricard, Georgian Wines and Spirits, International Finance Corporation, Erisioni Productions International, Metromedia Group, Tbilisi International Airport, Embassies of Great Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands in Georgia, Industrial Investors, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Sanofi Group, and Honda Motor Corporation
Mgaloblishvili Kipiani Dzidziguri & Partners (MKD) LP is a full service law firm. With local, national and international clients, MKD serves as a legal counsel to corporations, NGOs, state entities and individuals. Founded in November 1996, the firm has 5 partners: Irakli Mgaloblishvili, Archil Kbilashvili, Davit Dzidziguri, Vakhtang Shevardnadze, Viktor Kipiani, and 12 Lawyers.
MKD law practice includes advice and advocacy with respect to project finance, corporate, oil, gas and energy transhipments, banking, finance and trade, telecommunications, mergers and acquisitions, due diligence, taxation and customs, aviation and maritime, arbitration and litigation matters. The firm’s expertise covers a full range of general regulatory matters across a variety of service sectors.
MKD advises foreign clients on the impact to their regional operations and the national laws implementing or supplementing the international public and private law rules.
According to company representatives, MKD lawyers have developed extensive working relationships with leading government decision makers, entrepreneurs, business executives, and other major participants in the investment, trade and privatization areas.
MKD has acted for the Ministry of Transport and Communications of Georgia on the joint venture corporate structuring of the state railway companies of Georgia, Moldova and Romania. Lawyers have advised the EBRD and IFC in connection with the financing for the BTC and South Caucasus pipeline projects and acted for Société Générale on the biggest outside investment in the Georgian banking sector via an acquisition. Other clients include HeidelbergCement; Toyota; Black Sea Trade and Development Bank; ING; BP; Vitol; Unocal; NTT Europe; MegaCom; Nokia; Aeroflot and KPMG.
Begiashvili & Co.
Established in August 1995 Begiashvili & Co. limited specializes in Company Law, Banking / Finance, Insurance, Securities, NGOs / NPCs, Privatization, Litigation, Bankruptcy / Liquidation, Mergers / Acquisitions, Labour / Employment, Commercial Property, International Contracts, Taxation, Customs Law, Energy Law, Communications, Intellectual Property Construction Law.
The firm headcount comprises of two partners: Giorgi Begiashvili and Avto Namicheishvili and 6 associates. Since 1995 Begiashvili & Co. limited has participated in a number of projects as a subcontractor and direct contractor of various international and foreign financial institutions and private companies. Those projects involved preparing of the legal due diligence reports on different Georgian industrial enterprises and banking institutions, participating in drafting the financing and other relevant transactional agreements. Begiashvili & Co. limited has been advising its clients on retainment and on occasional basis on the general legal environment of Georgia, including the issues of investment, privatization, contracts, energy, telecommunications, etc. The company was involved in the preparation of tenders and has participated in various tenders together with its clients, including tenders related to the power sector, privatization, pipeline constructions, natural resources, etc.
Begiashvili has been advising a foreign investor in connection with a USD 300 million investment in the Georgian energy sector. He is also legal adviser to the Georgian government on a number of international arbitration matters. Namicheishvili specializes in equity investments in the banking sector, and has advised on investments in the cement production business in Georgia.