The development of the legal and financial framework of Dubai has been crucial in opening the market to the rest of the world. Among the champions of this cause is law firm Galadari, whose new challenge is to fulfil a bigger vision - help strengthen the UAE-Asia trade relations.
"The UAE has always been in the business of business. Long before the union of the Emirates in 1971, this area of the Arabian Peninsula has always been a centre for trade and commerce," says the firm's chairman Ziad Galadari. "It has an indelible history of merchant commerce and entrepreneurship. It is therefore of no surprise that the country continues to develop its trade links and treaties with international partners."
Galadari went against the grain when he established the law firm in 1981. In addition to pursuing the Galadari Group's legacy in businesses spanning industries from engineering to tourism, he aspired to contribute more to Dubai's development by making a difference in the legal system.
Galadari has risen among the Middle East's oldest and largest law firms. Leveraging its position as a part of the Galadari family, which helped shape the commercial development of the peninsula for centuries, it provides in-depth understanding of the region's legal policies and issues.
Led by a team of more than 70 lawyers, Galadari delivers services to local and international clients across corporate, banking, construction, maritime and other sectors. It is trusted by government entities and has provided Dubai legal and financial counsel through sovereign bond and development of the free zones among other issues. It also advised the government on the restructuring of aviation and port facilities, which progressed to become the Dubai World Central project.
"Dubai is always looking for alternative means to develop the city with sustainability and longevity," says Rosanna Chopra, Galadari business development director. "Ziad Galadari and the firm have a critical role in making developments such as Dubai World Central happen, having the legal perspective that guides decision makers."
The key to gaining invaluable confidence from clients is utmost neutrality. Galadari's unbiased treatment of its clients - be it government, local or overseas private organisations - focuses on the big picture and clearly identifies whether or not a business plan is feasible in the long run. Combining this with its network makes the firm an ideal bridge for international companies reaching out to the Middle East. "When we go out especially to Chinese-related companies, we ask what their objectives are in the UAE and Co-operation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf [or Gulf Co-operation Council, GCC]," says Bode Wilfred, head of corporate and capital markets group. "Then we find out how we as a law firm can help them."
The firm reinforces its commitment to Chinese and China-driven clients with the launch of its China Desk, the first of its kind that specifically handles China-related legal work from within the UAE. The China Desk supports clients from both sides of the world - Middle Eastern companies that have embarked on businesses on the mainland, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia and Chinese institutions looking for an entry point into the UAE and GCC.
Staffed by a Singapore-qualified lawyer who is fluent in Putonghua and with international expertise, the China Desk has been instrumental in bringing in high-profile clients including Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world's biggest bank in terms of profit and market capitalisation.
"The Middle East remains an important market for the global economy, particularly in light of the revenues generated by oil and its location as a gateway to Africa for Chinese and Asian investors," Galadari says. "China also provides many significant opportunities and it is in fact the UAE's biggest trading partner. This presents possibilities no bank or business based here can ignore."
Going to the Middle East will be more of a strategic approach than financial for Asian clients, according to Wilfred. Galadari's responsibility is to bridge the geopolitical gap and secure their assets, especially if they want to be in the market for the long term.
Galadari has built strong relationships with local Chinese law firms, and looks forward to forming more mutually beneficial partnerships with other Asian companies. It welcomes more lawyers and other talent to come and grow with the firm.