GBR – Global Business Reports. October 2015

Selected quotes from the interview with Qays H. Zu’bi, Senior Partner, Zu’bi & Partners

Zu’bi & Partners is the oldest local law firm in Bahrain. Could you give a brief history of the firm and some of the services it provides, particularly in regard to aluminium and related industries?

Zu’bi & Partners is a family law firm established in 1921 and has operated in Bahrain since 1971. Hatim Sharif Zu’bi, who today is chairman, was a banker and minister for King Hussein of Jordan. As a result, when Hatim S. Zu’bi set up the firm in Bahrain, banks were attracted to Zu’bi & Partners, some of which were major international banks that today have been with the firm for 40 years. The firm also had a relationship with ALBA, one of the country’s most important companies by many benchmarks, since 1979. In addition to the firm’s litigation work, Zu’bi & Partners is often invited by international law firms to serve as local counsel on major projects. For instance, when the EPCM firm Bechtel is granted a contract, the firm assists in the setup of the structure and licenses. In nearly all largescale projects in Bahrain, Zu’bi & Partners has had a role, from advising financiers, advising contractors, advising banks, or advising developers to environmental regulation and structuring. Additionally, the firm has the resources that would enable it to defend any case or advise on any matter relevant to the aluminium industry.

The complexity of a legal system can impact the successful operation of an industry, especially a significant exporting industry like aluminium. What is the legal environment like for firms in Bahrain?

The Bahrain legal system is flexible. As an example, if a major aluminium company wants to sign an agreement, they can stipulate arbitration elsewhere and can subject it to English law as the governing law. Likewise, the government allows law suits to be brought against it, meaning that if the government enters into a contract, it considers itself like any other party. There are many cases where the government has been sued on contractual civil cases. In regards to the courts in Bahrain, compared to many countries in the region, the legal system is more robust. The execution of judgements takes more time than it should, but the firm believes the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs are working on improving the speed of execution of judgements.

As a firm that is involved in the transportation and logistics sector, how would you asses the ease of export infrastructure in Bahrain for aluminium?

One of impediments at the moment for the aluminium industry is the King Fahd Causeway that links Bahrain to Saudi Arabia. Trucking delays are a major issue for the aluminium industry because of alternative cost. The delays have improved, but not to the extent that they are no longer an issue. However, Bahrain’s ports are superior to many other ports in the region. For example, in other ports, freight can sometimes take six months to clear. Despite the problems with the causeway, it is still faster to ship and clear goods in Bahrain rather than directly to neighboring ports.

Zu’bi & Partners has survived as a family law firm for several generations. Where would Global Business Reports expect to find Zu’bi & Partners in three to five years?

Zu’bi & Partners is in the process of engaging an international consultancy firm that specializes in developing law firms. The plan is to streamline the firm Zu’bi & Partners, to keep it ahead of other firms and bring in new partners to meet the expectations of a new generation of lawyers. Therefore to progress the matter, the firm plans to utilize technology to perform its work more efficiently and at a reasonable price. Zu’bi & Partners is also expanding its Dubai operations from the beginning of October 2015 onwards. We believe there  will also be a great deal of work in the oil and gas industry as the sector is restructuring.  For example, the firm has been invited by major international law firms to be local counsel on an upcoming LNG project in Bahrain.  Regarding the aluminium sector, the firm will continue to involve itself in ALBA’s line 6 expansion and is available to help the growing downstream sector and related service providers.