Solicitors governing body: Georgian Bar Association
Competition authority: Competition Agency
Financial regulator: National Bank of Georgia
IFLR1000 ranking categories for this jurisdiction:
Since achieving independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Georgia has effectively rebuilt its entire legal system, replacing Soviet era laws with new ones created with the assistance of Western European legal experts.
As with other countries with a civil law model, Georgia has a constitution and civil code at the core of its legal system. In the case of the former, the country adopted its current constitution in 1995, but various amends have been made since, including a flurry between 2004 and 2006 which recast the respective powers of government, parliament and president.
One interesting talking point from a regulatory perspective is the future of financial regulation in the country. While this has traditionally been overseen by the National Bank of Georgia (NBG), 2015 saw the latest attempt to transfer regulatory oversight to a separate financial regulatory body.
Though there are no explicit restrictions on foreign firms practicing in the country, only Georgian citizens licensed by the Georgian Bar Association can practice as local advocates. Equally there are no restrictions on foreign law firms hiring local Georgian lawyers.
The legal market is made up primarily of local Georgian firms, but a handful of foreign firms have opened offices including Dechert, DLA Piper and the legal branches of accountancy firms Deloitte, EY and PwC. These offices are generally staffed by local Georgian advocates.
As with most countries in the CEE (Central and Eastern Europe), lawyers in Georgia are not specialised in just one area of practice and generally act on a range of matters that fall under the broader umbrella of business or corporate law.
BDO Law is the Georgian legal branch of the wider BDO network. The firm’s Tbilisi office is best known for project development work, while also advising on lending.
The firm has significant experience in financing, often providing advice on structured lending to international and domestic clients. The firm has also been involved in innovative work related to crypto-currencies, taking the lead on local initial coin offerings (ICOs) and offering legal opinions in respect to the related emerging area of law.
Highlight work within M&A included acting as the seller’s local counsel in a cross-border gaming acquisition, and providing corporate assistance for private individuals acquiring a majority stake in a Georgian public construction company, Transconstruction.
In the project development area, the firm has shown strength in assisting clients obtain government finance for agricultural use. Another notable deal completed during the research period saw the firm represent Russian real estate investors, who were interested in developing land in Gudauri into a multi-functional hotel and winter resort.
The Frankfurt School of Financial Services, the Georgian Ministry of Agriculture and Incofin Investment Management and are among the firm’s notable clients.
“BDO Legal is a very professional outfit. It is easy to approach, provides timely responses and has good and balanced recommendations with clarity on the points of concern.” – Banking
“I've been dealing with BDO Legal for more than 10 years and I cannot remember an issue where it failed or disappointed me. The feeling of security is the first priority when dealing with legal issues. In addition, one of the most important strengths of the company is that despite being part of a big international association—which further strengthens its professionalism—it understands the local market and responds to its demands very efficiently. Those two issues are the main factors which made me willing to use the services of this company for over 10 years.” – Banking
“The firm are reliable partners, providing good knowledge of local law and legacy policies.” – Banking
“The firm's strength lies in its ease of doing business, excellent customer service and responsiveness.” – M&A, project finance
“A very good and balanced professional. He is friendly in his approach and very effective.”
“Good in execution, and prompt in response.”
“He has been helpful at all times and easy to reach out to whenever we had to sort things out.”
“He is a very reliable person and has good command of legal aspects of Georgian laws. He is always supportive and provides comprehensive recommendations.”
“Highly professional. Has good communication and analytical skills.”
“David is a honest, clever and a very professional lawyer. Knowing David for more than 10 years gives me ability to say with confidence that he is constantly working on development of his professionalism. The positive results are obvious year by year.”
“A very good and thorough professional. Takes time to understand the complete picture and then recommends. Experienced in diverse areas and has a balanced approach. Has a strong grasp on his areas of expertise.”
Begiashvili & Co is recognised for its work in the corporate and project development spaces in Georgia. Having been formed in 1995, soon after the establishment of the Georgian legal market, Begiashvili & Co has regularly worked on state projects, and recently worked with the Ministry of Finance and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in drafting the national legislation on leasing and factoring.
Recent M&A highlights include representing gaming group GVC Holdings in the process of acquiring an entity from gaming operator, Crystalbet. In the banking and finance space, the firm has primarily acted on lender side mandates with key clients including the EBRD.
In the project development space, the firm notably provided legal assistance concerning energy law for the purposes of the construction of the Nenskra hydro power plant, by advising a series of international development banks. Other prominent energy-related work included representing the sellers in the share sale of Jindal Petroleum to Schlumberger Rustaveli and working on the financing of Georgian Water and Power.
Other notable clients that work with the firm include Jacobs Georgia, Kraft Group and Mondelēz International.
“The team we worked with is always responsive. The legal opinions and answers to our questions were comprehensive and understandable, even if you are not familiar with the legal system of Georgia.” – M&A, project development
Comfortably among Georgia’s strongest firms, BGI Legal is renowned for its banking expertise and energy work. The firm has significant breadth, depth and experience in the jurisdiction, and has undertaken market-leading work in bond issues, real estate and oil and gas.
The firm has acted on a number of high-profile deals within the banking and capital markets space. Recent highlights include advising JPMorgan and Citi, as joint bookrunners and joint lead managers, on a eurobond issue by Energo-Pro. The team also acted for Barclays, as sponsor and financial adviser, on the listing of a Georgian bank on the LSE.
The firm’s project development team has notably worked with companies including Anadarko, Strait Oil and a number of international financial institutions for energy-related ventures in Georgia. The team’s expertise has also been used by Georgia’s government to develop the concession framework for large-scale hydro power plant developments.
Diverse multinational corporations such as Johnson & Johnson, Marriott International and McDonald’s are among the firm’s recent notable clients.
“Its strengths are its speed, high competence, and directness.” – Banking
“The firm has very reliable professionals.” – Capital markets
“The law firm provides a high quality and very professional service to its clients.” – Capital markets, project finance
Business Legal Bureau is generally strong in international and cross-border work. The firm is also active in the projects area and recognised for energy work. Financial services, real estate, and technology are some of the sectors in which the firm has expertise.
The firm’s recent corporate deals have been across various sectors, including education, food and healthcare. A highlight was acting for a Georgian medical corporation on the acquisition and restructuring matters of taking over a medical institution. Corporate due diligence was a recurring mandate that the firm received, notably working for McDonald’s in its expansion in Georgia.
US government agency, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) is among the key clients for the firm’s project finance team. Europe's largest development finance institutions, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the German Investment Corporation (DEG), have also been advised by the team on various matters.
The only prominent staffing change in the financial and corporate teams was the exit of senior associate, Mariam Vashakidze, who joined Dentons.
Among others, the firm has welcomed global music corporations Bravo, Sony Music and Warner as new clients during the research period.
Dentons is a leading performer in Georgia across the financial and corporate space, with further strengths in projects involving energy and oil and gas. The firm is experienced in sectors such as banking, capital markets and real estate.
In banking and finance, the firm represented the Bank of Georgia on its restructuring and the Agricultural Bank of China, as it worked on financing the purchase of an aircraft by a Georgian company.
The firm’s M&A team notably worked on advising Silknet on its acquisition of Geocell, working as the lead counsel. The deal figured among the largest completed acquisitions in Georgian history, with the team advising on both Georgian and English law documentation and regulatory issues. Among other highlight deals were roles for Schulze Global Investments on its multiple acquisitions of hydro power companies.
In the project finance area, the firm has arguably been the market’s leader in dealing with electric, oil and gas issues, representing buyers, sellers, developers and sponsors.
Staff changes include the addition of former Business Legal Bureau senior associate, Mariam Vashakidze, to its banking and finance team. On the other side, the same team lost counsel Nino Suknidze, who moved in-house to work with the Bank of Georgia.
JP Morgan, Natixis and Unicredit are among the firm’s key clients.
As a brand, the firm only entered the Georgian market in May 2017, after taking over DLA Piper’s resources in Tbilisi, in a frictionless transfer.
Gvinadze & Partners has acted mainly on corporate matters during the research period, while also attracting similar work in the projects space. Energy, real estate, transport and utilities are sectors in which the firm has expertise.
The firm has regularly offered Georgian law-related administrative, compliance and regulatory services to several clients including Bosch, Monster Energy and San Diego State University, which sought to establish its Tbilisi operations. A highlight for the finance team was representing Amtel Investment Holdings on the restructuring of two subsidiaries, in a cross-border deal involving Dutch and Singaporean shareholders.
In the projects area, the firm’s recent mandates have included attaining licenses and negotiating contracts for fertilizer and mining firms.
British American Tobacco, Louis Vuitton, Mastercard and Nestlé are some of the firm’s significant international clients.
“Gvinadze & Partners was involved in drafting and processing an advance tax ruling for our valuable partner, as well as registering corporate by-laws. It is a highly professional firm that has delivered the highest standard of legal services.” – M&A, project development
“Very professional and thorough, with good access to the partner who always makes himself available and is an excellent communicator.” – Project development
J&T Consulting advises on regulatory and corporate law matters. Most of the firm’s clients are entities seeking advice to remain compliant of Georgian law when carrying out transactions.
Recent work includes acting on share purchase agreements for several aviation clients.
Kordzadze Law Firm is recognised for its work in the banking and capital markets areas. Industrials and manufacturing, telecommunications and utilities are among the sectors where the firm has experience.
The firm’s recent highlights include working for buyers on transactions concerning the purchase of machinery, preparing share purchase agreements, and conducting due diligence for future projects.
“Kordzadze Law Office led on over 60 dispute resolution cases for our group of companies. The restructuring and insolvency team at the firm is very competent and experienced in all the fields our group of companies are involved in. It is very flexible and fast as well, which is a key point for industrial holdings like ours.” – Restructuring and insolvency
Mgaloblishvili Kipiani Dzidziguri (MKD) is best known for its financial and corporate practice but has also gained traction in the projects area in recent years.
In banking, clear highlights saw the firm assist the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) on its consecutive issue of bonds, and provide advice to the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank (BSTDB) on allocating a loan facility to TBC Leasing. Throughout 2017, MKD also advised the Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO) on the allocation of several loans to domestic banks, which would expand lending to small and medium-sized businesses in Georgia.
In the projects space, the team picked up work advising on a national hydropower project, and representing Global Energy and Infrastructure on the construction of a thermal power plant.
MKD’s other key clients include the Asian Development Bank and Société Générale.
“I have known MKD for almost eight years, as it has been our local legal advisers. I would like to particularly highlight the professionalism of the team on all levels.” – Banking
“The company provides a highly qualified service. During the times we worked together, the team was very attentive and were good professionals, with fast feedback on replying to all our issues.” – Banking
Nodia Urumashvili & Partners has acted on a range of financial and corporate work during the research period, working on deals in cryptocurrency, mining and pharmaceuticals.
In finance, the firm notably assisted Silkroad Bank on the underwriting of corporate bonds and its listing on the Georgian Stock Exchange. Capital markets is still a developing area in the jurisdiction, and the firm’s work helps set it in a good position to secure mandates as the area grows. Other standout deals include advising Ziraat Bank on its restructuring, and due diligence work on a sale for Global Contact Consulting.
In project development, the firm has been active on a number of energy, hospitality and real estate projects across Georgia. Recent work includes advising the roads department of Georgia on the construction of a highway and an important bypass.
Key clients include the likes of BlueOrchard Microfinance Fund, GCF Partners and Georgian Water and Power.
“Nodia Urumashvili & Partners is one of the leading law firms in Georgia, which is broadly represented especially on the real estate market. Its service is fast and its biggest strength is its knowledge of Georgian and international regulations. It can easily serve local and international investors by harmonising business needs to the requirements of legislation.” – Project development
“She is excellent across the board in legal expertise, sector knowledge, professionalism, teamwork, communication skills, analytical abilities and time management.”
"He is the best specialist in tax law."