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Kochhar opens in Dubai with ambitious plans after cutting local best friendships

Kochhar Inc Dubai
Kochhar Inc Dubai

Kochhar & Co opened up in Dubai on 10 November, after the Dubai Legal Affairs Department (LAD) of the Ruler’s Office granted the firm its licence to practice in the UAE six months ago.

Headed by Dubai managing partner Manek Palekar, who was a consultant with the firm since 2012, the firm is now licensed to practice local UAE law and the law of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).

According to the firm, it operates with a team of 12 lawyers there, including Palekar, from a 7,500 square foot office space in downtown Dubai.

Kochhar managing partner Rohit Kochhar told Legally India that in the LAD, with which the firm filed its application for licence in 2012, the request had gone through a stringent scrutiny and verification process comprising due diligence, asking the firm for several documents and interaction between various Dubai government departments.

Now licensed to practice in the country, the firm has terminated its collaborative arrangements with middle-eastern best friends Dr Khalid Alnowaiser in Saudi Arabia and MIO Lawyers & Legal Consultants in the UAE – the tie ups through which the firm first entered the region four years ago.

The dilio

Noting that his was the first Asian law firm to practise locally in Dubai, Kochhar commented: “The reasons which drove us to do this are many fold. As you are aware there is a very large India diaspora in the UAE. Indians constitute the largest proportion of expatriates in the UAE. Many of these Indians are in senior decision making positions in Indian companies in the UAE, in multinational corporations in the UAE as well as in the local Arab companies in the UAE. So we thought that if a leading law firm such as ours establishes in Dubai (given that we are of Indian origin, we are not a branch of an Indian office: we are a local law firm but our roots are Indian) and provide them with Indian legal quality on local law matters as well as DIFC.”

“The second reason we decided to establish in the UAE is that we have a very large multinational client base and they have a very large presence in Dubai which is to do with the fact that Dubai is a very important city. We thought that if we are in this region and serve even the captive clientele that Kochhar currently has, that would be an excellent start.”

UAE: Land of opportunity?
UAE: Land of opportunity?
Competitive strategies

“The UAE in terms of legal services is not saturated or an overly developed market unlike the UK or the US.”

Commenting on the local competition from foreign law firms, Kochhar noted: “Of course the English law firms are there but the foreign law firms have a narrow bandwidth of services and practice areas that they are engaged with – they basically do cross border work or English law work. They do not practice day to day general corporate law.”

“We are a full service firm so we would provide day to day support on any matter in the UAE just as we do in India. Foreign law firms are specialised and not looking at market share in the work that we do. They do foreign law oriented or sovereign fund work.”

Costs were another factor in the firm’s favour in Dubai at the moment, he said. “Also we believe that we cater better to the business community of the UAE as a more cost effective law firm because the English and US law firms have much higher charges given the fact that their offices are manned by English or US lawyers or foreign lawyers who are expatriates in the UAE.”

“We don’t have any expatriates. We have a mix of nationalities and they are not lawyers from the western world.”

Kochhar said that its office space in Dubai can seat 30 lawyers and that the firm has “huge plans for expansion” in the banking sector, real estate and construction, in representing trading companies, and in electronics, apart from general corporate and M&A.

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