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Is Qatar a viable location for international law firms?

Posted by: Laurence Simons 27/01/14

Although Qatar used to be largely a base for pearl-hunting - an exciting-sounding trade, but not one that screams out 'investment opportunity' - the last few decades have seen the small Arab state emerge as a major player in the international business world, attracting a number of global law firms to the area.

Like its equally oil-reach counterpart Dubai, the nation offers a good base for legal companies keen to expand into emerging markets and make themselves available to as many incredibly wealthy Arabic businessmen as possible.

In 2008, the country's government began a huge project of reform and infrastructure development, attempting to diversify the economy and create new roads, hospitals, museums and so forth.

Furthermore, it is set to host the World Cup in 2022, attracting increased international interest to its reform programme and drawing the attention of burly men in pubs who previously thought Qatar was some kind of Spanish drink.

Law firms have increasingly looked to the Gulf state as a good place to gain a foothold in a potentially lucrative market, reports the Law Gazette.

Part of Qatar's drive to diversify its hydrocarbon-reliant economy is the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), which was launched by the government in 2005 in a bid to attract multinational companies to the country.

Robert Musgrove, chief executive officer of the Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre, said the project's legal infrastructure is closely modelled on its English equivalent.

"The emir recognised that, if you had an independent, world-leading legal system, you would be better at protecting and promoting the rights of international companies investing in Qatar, and so he turned to the UK for [the QFC's] legal and regulatory model," he told the news provider.

This could place English magic circle firms in the driving seat when it comes to investing in the state, although their ‘biglaw’ counterparts haven't been shy in staking out a share of the country's lucrative legal market.