BUSINESS MATTERS

Ras Al Khaimah 2017 | EXECUTIVE GUIDE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Theodor Strohal, Senior Partner of the Strohal Legal Group, on the group's services in Ras Al Khaimah, remaining small and nimble, and his outlook for the Emirate.

 Dr. Theodor Strohal
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Theodor Strohal is the founder and Senior Partner of Strohal Legal Group. He lectures at Dubai University on company formation and business setups and previously lectured at the post-graduate Academy of Journalism in Vienna. He graduated from the Vienna University School of Law in 1974 and was admitted to the bar in 1979. He has been a keynote speaker at seminars on property law, corporate taxation, and international tax law.

What services do you offer to investors?

Strohal has been practicing law in Vienna since 1979. In the mid 1980s we opened our first office outside Europe, in Indonesia, and then in Singapore in 1992. During a visit to Ras Al Khaimah in 2005, HH Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi stressed the need for international English-speaking lawyers for the growing number of foreign investors in the Emirate. Later that year, as per His Highness' suggestion, we started operations and have been the only foreign on-shore law firm in the country ever since. We focus on business law in general, but corporate is our main task; however, we do not do litigation. When there are disputes, we hand it over to local law firms. We do everything in connection to company set-ups, like international taxation, labor, conveyancing, rental contracts, and so on. We focus mostly on foreigners entering this Emirate or any other of the other six Emirates. For this reason we also have partners in Sharjah, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi. In corporate law, we work with the two free zones offshore and onshore, as well as the other Emirates, and we also advise in Oman and Qatar. Oman, Bahrain, and Qatar are the areas where we are frequently asked to work outside of the UAE. However, in Saudi Arabia, due to its more strict sharia law, we prefer to use local firms for our clients doing business there. In the 10 years we have been practicing in the region we have not had a bad case yet.

Strohal is a boutique law firm with no more than three or four lawyers. Is it part of your strategy to keep the firm small?

Once a law firm has about 80 to 100 lawyers, at least one-third of its working power is dedicated to administration. I want to work as a lawyer and be here for the client, and so we offer a concentrated scope. Sometimes when we have one or two big clients that take all our resources, we hold off on taking on any new clients. Our four worldwide offices are in communication with each other, which means that we can use the back office in Singapore, Myanmar, or Vienna.

What are the main factors that companies seeking to do business in Ras Al Khaimah should take into consideration?

Ras Al Khaimah has a number of advantages. Firstly, the free zones are much more flexible due to their size in comparison to those in Dubai. The free zones in Ras Al Khaimah tend to resemble a family-type administration. Secondly, the free zones here are much cheaper, particularly the rental costs. Company set-up license fees are almost the same across the UAE, but per square meter companies setting up here only pay a third of Silicon Oasis or a fourth of Dubai Airport Free Zone, and maybe only 10% of Jebel Ali. Furthermore, we have one large industrial park in Al Ghail in Ras Al Khaimah, which belongs to the Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority (RAKIA). It costs around AED10 per sqm per year in terms of rental, which compared to Dubai's industrial parks is extremely affordable. Besides Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah is the fastest-growing Emirate in regard to the economy, tourism, and industry, including manufacturing.

What is your outlook for the RAK economy in the medium term?

I believe Ras Al Khaimah will sooner or later overtake Sharjah and become the third Emirate within the seven. Tourism will be the main driver of the economy for the Emirate, followed by medium or light industry, which is settling here because labor and rental costs are cheaper. We are one of only three Emirates offering offshore services. There are many foreigners and Europeans in top positions, and to attract more people they are showing more open-mindedness and tolerance, which is evident from the invitation of foreign think tanks to support development.