Baker & McKenzie, Norton Rose and Trowers and Hamlins have become embroiled in a licensing scandal in Bahrain, following a revolt by the country’s domestic legal community.
The Bahrain Bar Association (BBA) and numerous individual lawyers have launched a lawsuit against the country’s Industry and Commerce Ministry, the Bahrain Monetary Agency (BMA) and the international law firms operating in the country. The suit calls for the licences of Bakers, Nortons and Trowers to be revoked.
BBA president Abbas Hilal said: “Under the laws of the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Industry and Commerce Ministry or the Bahrain Monetary Agency cannot grant licences to the international law firms. Only the Ministry of Justice can do this, but they have not.
“They must get a Ministry of Justice licence otherwise they are in an illegal situation. We have written to the Industry and Commerce Industry about this situation, but we have not been able to agree, so we file suit.”
The firms, which were licensed by the Commerce Ministry, had yet to receive notification of the lawsuit. The firms have been operating with licenses for several years each, Norton Rose’s licence dates back to 1979.
Norton Rose Middle East head Stephen Parish said: “We are slightly bemused. We will obviously be checking our position, but as far as we are concerned it is a local political issue to be resolved by the Bahrain ministry.”
Trowers issued a short statement saying the matter was between the BBA and ministries, while Bakers declined to comment.