LEGALLY SPEAKING

Saudi Arabia 2017 | ECONOMY | VIP INTERVIEW

What drew you to law and how did AlSoaib Law Firm come about?

I had two reasons to switch from a commercial business inherited from my family to law. The first reason was my position regarding law and legal practice. Since a young age, I have believed that practicing law was meant for me. The second reason was that law could be used to protect the family business, especially in the sense that law can protect and preserve the business in order to keep it going. I started with a small office of 150sqm. At that time, when I told people I was a lawyer, no one was interested. People did not have any idea what lawyers do or how they can protect people. This was in 1995. By 1998 foreign investment began to flow into the country and law became much more important. They came before the investment authority was created in 2000. We began growing together with the investment authority, and we now have a good relationship with that entity. We were growing together with foreign companies. They often look for lawyers and auditors. Most of the local companies now are also looking for lawyers. In 2005 we opened our AlSoaib Law Firm branch in Jeddah, which has been successful. Then we began to grow all over again after 2008. We hope to compete. We have a good relationship with other firms. We even transfer know-how. We also learn a lot from international firms. Most of the clients are foreign companies, up to 90%, while 10% are local.

What major legal changes have happened in Saudi Arabia with regards to investment?

A lot of changes have happened in the last five years specifically, mostly in corporate business and in terms of the labor law. These changes have made it easier. The most important thing for foreign companies is justice. To tell the truth, the courts here are fair. Previously, foreigners often misunderstood our laws. They were afraid of courts and Sharia law, but now they have started to understand that the law is clear. We have good experience and references documented with many of the cases we have taken on from foreign companies.

What does it mean for your legal practice that the government is seeking to attract more investors with Vision 2030?

The legal framework in the Kingdom is already prepared to develop our investment system and extend the success of that to all stakeholders. The reforms will certainly bring business. We prepare ourselves and develop ourselves for that and to achieve our goals. In 2017 it is difficult, but we hope it will be easier in 2018.

How does the upcoming creation of a new bankruptcy law affect your practice?

The Kingdom has taken note of the rise of the problem and the Ministry of Commerce and Investment is working on a new law. The bankruptcy law is important, to be articulated in 320 articles. The new law shall cover all of the possibilities and shall be enforced as early as possible. It will be a balanced law; offering protection to both creditors and debtors. It is an important law, for both foreigners and local companies.

Do you see the law making it easier for foreign investors to invest in Saudi Arabia?

Not just for foreign investors and international companies, but also for locals. We requested this law a long time ago. We are happy with the law now. We wish to see a lot of new laws from the government. The stock market also needs more laws. There is a new law on the way for the stock market that will increase protections for foreign investors. This will also bring business to my practice.

What are your goals and ambitions for the law firm in 2017?

The government has already done excellent work and will protect Saudi Arabia from an economic downturn. We will always be strong. We feel this in the stock market now. Real estate remains strong, the stock market remains strong, and still we have a strong economy. We are involved in many companies and investors in the real estate sector today, especially from Kuwait and Qatar. Al Futtaim will build the largest mall in the Gulf and it has already started in Saudi Arabia on the foundations—it started six or seven months ago. Al Shaya is also investing. Many US companies invest here in real estate. Al Shaya is our client, and we have them in Jeddah and Riyadh. In the coming years we will hire more staff and more lawyers, and we have recently hired two additional lawyers. We are preparing for 2018 and investing for the future. Most large companies do the same. If we do not prepare ourselves for bad economic times, it is our fault. We should always have something for the down cycle. It is not going up in one direction; it must go down and up.