Kazakhstan is becoming a bright spot in the global market for legal services, comments by Rashid Gaissin, Managing Partner, and Aliya Aralbayeva, Counsel of GRATA Law Firm to The Lawyer Magazine (extract)

According to a joint study conducted by KPMG and the Overseas Development Institute this year, Kazakhstan is the fifth best placed country in the world to take advantage of opportunities in a rapidly changing global economy. As many countries continue to struggle in the tough economic climate, lawyers in Kazakhstan are optimistic about the country’s prospects.

"The Kazakhstan economy has grown considerably in recent years and the government has invested in the education and qualification of its professionals, including legal professionals, who now join the offices of international law firms or local practices," says Aliya Aralbayeva, Counsel, Director of London Office, GRATA Law Firm Representative in the United Kingdom.

Most lawyers are prepared to admit that the overriding attraction for foreign investors remains firmly in the natural resources field.

"Kazakhstan is a resource-rich country and this explains why such a vast number of subsoil surface produces, such as oil and gas and mining businesses, operate in our country," stresses Rashid Gaissin, Managing Partner at GRATA Law Firm.

Mr. Gaissin estimates that around 50 per cent of GRATA’s work stems from the natural resources sector, but says the projects often require advice on a host of other areas, including regulatory and corporate advice, litigation and IP matters.

The other lawyers highlight the government’s efforts to attract investors and instil confidence in the Kazakh PPP market. The registration of a Kazakhstan Bar Association to help regulate the Kazakh legal market is also noticed.

As for the Kazakh legal market itself, although lawyers admit things aren’t quite as competitive as in their CIS rivals, there are a few intriguing trends.

"In the 1990s we watched a number of US law firms establishing offices in Kazakhstan, following their clients, most of whom were US companies operating in the oil and gas sector," comments Mr. Gaissin. "Since the 1990s we’ve seen a number of UK and US firms coming to Kazakhstan and another interesting trend is the development of the legal market we have seen is the interest from Russian and CIS practices in opening law offices here."

There is clearly still plenty of interest from international firms looking to set up shop in Kazakhstan, with several having taken a rather back-door approach to entering the country in 2012. This is bound to increase as the legal market continues its rapid development.

Ruth Green

The Lawyer Magazine, 1 October 2012