November 2, 2006, Newspaper "MESSENGER" publishes interviews with Partners MKD
What can be said on the eve of Mgaloblishvili, Kipiani, Dzidziguri law firm's 10 year anniversary? By historic count this is a slice of time that does not matter much in the long process of human race evolution. As for the human beings it could be considered as a substantial point in time given to a man for the accomplishment of his deeds.
By no means is easy challenge to start up a new tradition regarding the law firm's proper and stable growth, especially in such a traditional country as Georgia. Even more, the Georgian new statehood itself is only 15 years old. However, the bright side of this endeavor is that alongside very hard work carried out by the firm's lawyers, there are solid and long standing exemplar traditions from the western law firms that give existing models, structures, business ethics, and methodology to follow and thus avoid creation of new wheel. When three lawyers started one of the leading law firms in Georgia ten years ago it took them several difficult years to go steady on their feet.
Now the Mgaloblishvili, Kipiani, Dzidziguri law firm unites five partners as its core and serves interests of number of clients, including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Millennium Challenge Corporation and BP.
"We started when we had nothing except the desire to do something. And now we have found trust and our place in the society," one of the partners, Archil Kbilashvili says.
"There is no surprise since "historically" (the word which I though put in marks, but which truly reflects some history in pace with the history on re-emerged Georgian nation) the firm has been involved in many projects within the energy, banking, finance, telecoms, public procurement and other sectors, and is nowadays considered to be an expert on versatile complex legal matters naturally interconnected with modern trends in both in local business community and perceptions of international investment circles too. It appears (and, hopefully, reasonably) to me that we offer more than just legal counsel. We take a firm stance on moral ethics! For many ancient regime lawyers it has traditionally been hard to reach goals by legal means and they have turned to other methods. We, on the other hand, believe that we not only have a commercial role to play but also a social role, and we have never moved away from the law - we have a sense of responsibility and offer a speedy and high-standard service in conjunction with keeping moral standards.," the partner of the firm, Victor Kipiani says.
He adds working in the firm is not just about giving a legal advice on a variety of issues, but trying to "look behind a specific matter, document or business arrangement to see faces behind, discern fates involved and keep on a mind aspirations of different interests involved,
"1 wish to believe, our services were and will always remain personal or, as we say, "legal services with human face," Kipiani adds.
The firm partner David Dzidziguri says the company should develop in future both employing more people and improving the quality of legal advice. As one of the leading law firms in Georgia, David continues, our law practice includes advice and advocacy with respect to project finance, corporate, oil, gas and energy transshipments, banking, finance and trade, telecommunications, mergers and acquisitions, due diligence, taxation and customs, aviation and maritime, arbitration and litigation matters. The firm's expertise covers full range of general regulatory matters across a variety of service sectors. David says that the firm advises foreign clients on the impact to their regional operations and the national laws implementing or supplementing the international public and private law rules. Our lawyers have developed extensive working relationships with leading government decision makers, entrepreneurs, business executives, and other major participants in the investment, trade and privatization areas.
The firm at the moment has more than twenty employees. At the same time the company has a tight link with Tbilisi State University's Law Faculty. A partner Vakhtang Shevardnadze says the firm has donated equipment to the faculty as well as expensive books and publishing materials to the library. The firm has also supported the introduction of protection of refugees' rights as one of the aspects of international law into the faculty's curriculum. For the first time, he adds, the Georgian Government, represented by lawyers from Mgaloblishvili, Kipiani, Dzidziguri, prevailed on arbitration case at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, in Washington DC. The case was brought by the Zhinvali Development Group asking USD 26 million from Georgia on a basis of alleged breach of promissory estoppel, unjust enrichment and moral damages. The case has had a crucial importance not only for the Georgian side, but may well be regarded having a landmark status for overall practice of ICSID regarding this part of the world.
A practicing lawyer providing legal advice to Agritechnics group, Standard Bank, and ProCredit Bank, he says when the firm started operating in 1996 it was practically a pioneer in the business law. But, now, Kbilashvili adds, the competition is higher with the creation of other Georgian law firms and introduction of such leading international firm as DLA Piper into the Georgian market.
"As the time goes the competitiveness will heighten in this sector because the stabilization and the economic growth increase the demand on legal assistance," he said.
The firm has been involved in the biggest privatization projects as well as in Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil and Shah Deniz natural gas pipelines.
Among other major clients of the firm are Kazakh bank TuranAlem, Energy Invest, and Russian company VimpelCom, KazTransGas, which recently decided to enter the Georgian telecom market.
The firm also provides legal advice to diplomatic missions in Georgia, including the US Embassy in Tbilisi.
Kbilashvili talks about one interesting case he has participated in last year. In 2005 the Strasbourg court heard an appeal of a Georgian firm against the Georgian government. According to the court decision, the Georgian government should pay Euro 200,000.
"We believe that we not only have a commercial role to play but also a social role, and we have never moved away from the law. We are telling ourselves 'Don't say we have already seen everything', this is a starting phase and we should continue our development" Kipiani says.
Other partners add the development of our firm will be directly linked to the development of business in the country.
"In the future the firm hopes to develop regional business cooperation.
"We would like to link up with other lawyers in the area, then form partnerships with law firms in the West. This market is going to develop enormously in the future. Georgia is attractive due to its location as a bridge to the West; its human resources potential and its legal protection of foreign investors. Substantial and long- term investments are very welcome both from a commercial and professional points of view. We trust that out firm is prepared to meet all investors' requirements and they can indeed rely on our integrity for accomplishing their business needs and objectives," Irakli Mgaloblishvili, the firm's partner, explains.