Kurd your enthusiasm

Erbil lawyers want action taken against outsiders they feel are muscling in

A band of local lawyers in the Iraqi city of Erbil, angry that foreign lawyers are homing in on their racket, has petitioned its bar association to take action.

The group of lawyers has drawn up a list of around 50 foreign lawyers working in Erbil and asked the local bar association to bring an action against them for practising illegally, according to one member of an Iraq-based legal consultancy.

But according to another source based in Iraq, that was not the full extent of the claims by the local lawyers – they also wanted the bar association to blacklist any Iraqi-qualified lawyers who worked with those foreigners.

“A small group of Kurdish lawyers were taking steps to try to get the bar association to take action [against firms like us] and around 50 lawyers were under scrutiny,” said the legal consultancy source. “There’s a regime law coming out in Erbil that’s going to formalise what’s at present a pretty informal regime in Kurdistan, with provisions that deal with how they regulate foreign firms.”

The source added: “Our status is that we work with local lawyers and that they’re the ones who give the legal advice. We’re solid in our status and we’re clear in all of our engagement emails that we don’t give advice ourselves – that only comes from Iraqi lawyers.”

The bar association, however, appears to have little appetite for a turf war, according to the source, who says: “We’ve since spoken to the bar association and they’ve told us they have no intention of [bringing the actions].”

The bar association’s reaction stands in stark contrast to that of certain Eastern European countries a few years ago.

In one instance, CMS Cameron McKenna and DLA Piper, along with two other firms, were referred by local lawyers in Bulgaria to the country’s commission for protection and got fined, although this was later overturned on appeal.

That said, Kurdistan’s lawyers are hardly faced with a proliferation of international firms. If Iraq had experienced the same gold rush that parts of Eastern Europe did, local bar associations may not be so quick to dismiss claims.

The Iraqi Bar Association did not respond to requests for comment.