Trowers first in Oman partnership

Trowers & Hamlins is to create the first foreign partnership with an Omani lawyer in order to comply with the country's new rules on foreign law firms.

Oman last year introduced new regulations which gave foreign law firms until the end of 1999 to form joint ventures with local lawyers or risk losing their offices.

The firm is hoping to form a local partnership with Omani lawyer Majid Al Toky by the start of May.

However, the arrangement has not yet been approved by the Omani authorities.

Al Toky is currently serving out his notice period at the national oil company Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), where he is second-in-charge of the company's legal department.

He will be the second Omani lawyer to be brought into the firm's Oman office the first was taken on at associate level three years ago.

Nicholas Edmondes, Trowers & Hamlins resident partner in Oman, said Al Toky had worked with PDO, a client of the firm, for 10 years.

The office will now need to include the local partner's name in its title, but Edmondes said the full title is being kept under wraps until it has been approved.

He added that the exact type of partnership structure the lawyers would have to adopt still required clarification.

There is still some degree of uncertainty concerning the proper level of Omani participation in joint venture firms, although Edmondes is confident that the arrangement made with Al Toky meets official requirements.

“It is early days,” he said. “The authorities have to work out what is an acceptable arrangement and we are discussing this with them.”

Meanwhile, Fox & Gibbons, the other UK firm with an office in Oman, is waiting until these issues are clarified before it moves.

Resident partner Alasdair Jeffrey said he was not sure when or how his firm would act. He said: “We have got 22 months to decide. We are pursuing a number of avenues at the moment.”

Richards Butler is not affected by the new rule since it has only an associated office in the country with local firm Said Al-Shahry.