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UAE-based law firm to open Kerala offices


United Arab Emirate (UAE) firm Musthafa & Almana is starting up to four offices in Kerala and South India.

Musthafa & Almana was founded 12 years ago in Dubai by Indian qualified lawyers and husband and wife team Musthafa Zafeer and Ms Almana, who are both originally from Kerala.

Zafeer said that the firm was now very close to opening offices in Bangalore, and Kochi and Trivandrum in Kerala.

He added that he hoped to follow up with another Kerala office in Calicut to build up a Kerala practice of a total of 15 to 20 lawyers.

Zafeer explained: "There is a lot of money flowing from the Gulf to Kerala for sure - Kerala has been given a very wrong picture in the business market, saying it's not conducive to business investment, which is not fully correct according to me."

Zafeel said that so far Musthafa & Almana has agreed to enter into a joint venture partnership with Bangalore advocate Shakeel Abdul Rehman, who will set up an office for the firm in Bangalore with around four lawyers. Zafeer added that the firm was also recruiting up to four conveyancing, drafting and arbitration lawyers in the city.

In Kochi, Zafeer said that the firm was in the final stages of taking on up to five lawyers, who would be joining the UAE-parent firm on retainer as associates.

In Trivandrum, he explained, the firm would absorb two litigating lawyers running a small law firm, who had both agreed to join in principle.

Commenting on the Kerala legal market, Zafeer noted that there were no other law firms operating there.

"It is a very, very litigation focused community and we want to create a new breed of lawyers," he said. "Even though their educational and English language command is very good compared to other parts of India, very rarely are Kerala lawyers into drafting or arbitration scenarios."

Zafeer said that the offices would handle both in-bound work from the firm's UAE offices in Dubai and Ras Al Khaima, which focus primarily on corporate and commercial law, but that the South Indian offices should also be referring work to the Gulf.

He said that particularly tourism investment was on the rise, as Kerala was now among the five must-see destinations in the world. "The real estate sector is also in very good standing even in that type of recession."

The firm will also target high net-worth individuals in Kerala who are looking to emigrate to the Gulf or do business there.

Musthafa & Almana is a firm of about eight lawyers and late last year opened up a representative office in London.

Zafeer said that he was also hoping to offer internships to Indian law student in the Middle East in future.

Musthafa & Almana has a non-exclusive referral alliance with SN Gupta & Co in North India.

SN Gupta managing partner Rajesh Gupta conceded that the Kerala legal market was difficult but added: "[Zafeer] is himself a Keralite, therefore he knows the local market well… There is a lot of migration which is happening from Kerala to Dubai and what he feels is that between Kerala and Dubai he can generate a good practice."

FoxMandal Little opened a small office in Kochi in 2008.

Photo by Vibin

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