Solicitors governing body: Iran Bar Association
Competition authority: National Iranian Competition Centre
Financial regulator: Central Bank of Iran (CBI)
IFLR1000 ranking categories for this jurisdiction:
Financial and corporate (published October) - Financial and corporate
Iran became the world’s first Islamic state after a revolution in 1979 ousted the monarchy in favour of a republic and the current constitution - an interpretation of shariah law - was implemented.
Following the revolution, amid concern about Iran’s nuclear programme, the US imposed sanctions on the country. These were made more stringent in 1995 and, in 2006, the UN began its own trade embargo against the state.
Having severely restricted the country’s cross-border business activity, the sanctions have stunted Iran’s economic growth and development. This has had a clear impact on the complexion of the country’s legal market.
Law firms in Iran are almost exclusively domestic. With severe penalties for foreign companies interacting with Iran’s government, the risks have been too high to invest or do business in the jurisdiction for most. With little need for international law advice, the incentives for international firms to open in the country have been few. However, all this may be about to change.
In early 2016, the sanctions are expected to be, tentatively, lifted, providing Iran curb’s its nuclear programme and limits it to civilian use. Should the decision go ahead, an influx of investment is expected. The market offers huge opportunities - it’s the second largest economy in the Middle East and, in terms of gas and crude oil, its reserves are the second and fourth largest in the world, respectively.
If the sanctions are removed and, as expected, FDI into Iran increases and the government begins trading freely again, international firms may arrive too. Particularly as there are no foreign ownership restrictions for businesses in the private sector.
Since news of a deal between Iran and the West first emerged, local lawyers say they have had enquiries from large international firms looking for partners. No significant commercial firms have made a move yet, but one small UK firm, Everys Solicitors, has set-up shop in Tehran and Shiraz after taking over the offices of a domestic firm.
For the meantime, there are only a handful of firms in Iran handling cross-border financial and corporate work. Atieh Associates, which has internationally qualified lawyers, has an exceptional reputation. Among the country’s older firms, Torossian Avanessian & Associates, is also strongly recommended for commercial advice.
Because of sanctions, the type of work available to commercial firms has been limited recently. Firms are generally competent in Islamic finance and most are active in corporate contractual work. Neither firms nor lawyers tend to be specialised, instead being more generalists when it comes to financial and corporate advice.
Ben Naylor - Journalist - EMEA
Atieh Associates is experienced in all areas of financial and corporate work. The firm focuses on advising international clients on work in Iran and is used by leading brands and law firms.
The firm’s recent work highlights have been a mix of corporate transactions and project advice. The notable deals included advising a buyer on the acquisition of local beverages company, advising an Austrian client on renewable power projects in Iran, advising a foreign partie on the establishment of an automotive joint venture, and work for a Chinese bank on the project financing of a hospital.
Hatami & Associates is recognised for corporate transactional work.
Construction, energy, oil and gas, real estate and retail are sectors in which the firm has been active.
The firm’s recent transactional work has mostly been in relation to oil and gas and commercial real estate projects. In the oil and gas area the firm has advised international clients on upstream developments in Iran. The real estate work has bene in relation to the development of shopping malls.
Karimi & Associates is active in corporate law in a range of sectors, including construction, business intelligence technology, food and pharmaceutical. The firm worked on M&A cross-border transactions and corporate governance matters recently. In one highlight deal the firm advised the South African company PBT Group on expanding its services in the Iranian market.
Significant clients include Eskan Emrooz Rahjoo Company and Zarrinsole Manufacturing Group.
“Result oriented. Following up well.” - Financial and corporate
“Strong and experienced team. Building and preparing the proper case in the court, which lead to winning the case in chamber of commerce. The firm was able to apply the court rule and collect the money that the other party owed our company.” - Financial and corporate