November 18th, 2015

An Interview with Qays H. Zu’bi

Lawyer Monthly – Issue 67-15

Each month, Lawyer Monthly’s ‘My Legal Life’ feature looks at the professional life of some of the world’s leading lawyers and legal professionals. We look at their work, the challenges they face and what motivates them. This month we speak to Qays H. Zu’bi from Zu’bi & Partners Attorneys & Legal Consultants. Zu’bi & Partners is the oldest established local law firm in Bahrain and a top-tier legal services provider in Bahrain and the GCC. The firm provides legal services across all leading sectors including banking and finance, corporate, commercial, construction, real estate, to name just a few. It acts for both corporate clients and high net worth individuals in many diverse areas, including litigation and arbitration, property, labour, trade and family law.

You have been practising law in Bahrain since 1981; how has the legal landscape evolved there in that time?

Since its independence in 1971, Bahrain made great strides in developing the practice of law. Moving away from Britain caused the country to become self-reliant. The  first Bahraini Courts were established in the year 1922 whereupon practicing lawyers took on cases that were adjudicated by Bahraini and other Arab national judges. Prior to the 70’s, some of the laws that existed at time were based on Common Law prompting a change to Civil law after the country announced its independence, as the majority of lawyers and judges came from a Civil Law background influenced by Egyptian jurisprudence.

With the emergence of the oil embargo in the early 70’s followed by the oil boom, initiatives— attributable to the progressive vision of Bahrain’s leaders—were instituted to prepare the country for an influx of investments from neighbouring countries. As a result, banking, company  and commercial laws were enacted amongst others, enabling the setup of foreign banks, financial institutions and offshore companies, which in turn transformed Bahrain into the financial and offshore corporate hub of the GCC. Consequently, legal and court systems rapidly had to progress to keep pace with the growth of the economy. This resulted in some laws being abolished or overhauled. During that time, we saw the enactment of the Civil Law, the Criminal Law, the Law of Civil Procedures, and Labour Law amongst others.

Bahrain became a signatory to many international agreements and conventions to remain competitive and compliant in today’s world. The Free Trade Agreement with the United States serves as an example, as well as the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of  Goods.

Bahrain had to embark on developing its laws to keep pace with other parts of the world through utilising best-recognized international practices. This is apparent from recent laws enacted such as the Telecommunications Law, Banking Law, and Electronic Law.

Your practice focuses on a range of areas (Corporate; Commercial Banking; Property; Infrastructure;  Telecommunications; Franchising; Privatisation; Intellectual Property; Litigation & Arbitration; Labour; Government); what are the most common types of case you work on?

Being one of the oldest established law firms in Bahrain, we have been involved in virtually all of the banking transactions and infrastructure work that has taken place in the country since 1971. In this regard, we acted in different capacities like representing the government on one hand, or financiers on the other— including, at times, developers, construction companies, property owners, and tenants. The firm has undertaken major litigation and local and international arbitration cases as well, with the exclusion of matters related to taxation since it is non-existent in Bahrain. The types of cases changed depending on the nature of the dispute and market conditions. In favourable economic times, the firm sees an increase in contractual and financial cases. In tough economic times, we see an upsurge in construction claims, corporate and commercial claims, employment cases as well as crime cases involving the police and the public prosecutor. We were also involved in  a number of corporate liquidations, IPOs, and mergers and acquisitions.

As well as being Senior Partner of the firm, you are also Honorary Consul for Canada in Bahrain and President of AmCham Bahrain. What challenges do you face within these high profile positions and how do you overcome them?

A healthy lifestyle and experience helps people overcome many challenges. While these positions demand a lot of time, attention and focus, a person is as good as his team. I am blessed in both positions, the Canadian Consulate and AmCham, to have a good and hardworking support team which makes any challenges negligible. Additionally, I find that open communication is the key to success in all walks of life. Furthermore, it is of paramount importance to be extremely meticulous and devoted when undertaking a job or an assignment. I make it a point to be available and accessible at all reasonable times to anyone seeking help or guidance. Staying involved and informed is a significant element of doing the job right.

To continue gaining the respectability of a major super power in the  world,  Canada, and to carry on representing it in Bahrain as Honorary Consul for more than 14 years is a worthwhile challenge. Likewise, gaining the respectability and support of members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Bahrain to serve as President for a second term is again a worthwhile  challenge.

What motivates you?

My immediate family is my best motivator followed by my employees, clients and friends. The want to reach great heights throughout my life is a great incentive as well. A further important driving force is the need to inspire the young and to give back to the community and the needy.

On the work front, success and achievement are great motivators supported by values and ethics. These include instances where a case is won or a project is accomplished.

What would you change, legislatively, if you had the power?

Reform requires a continuous effort towards improving our laws, enhancing the administration of our law courts and enacting tougher rules to regulate lawyers and experts. As indicated earlier the country has sufficient capacity—through intellect and resources— to revamp many of the laws in order to bring them up-to-date with current international best practices and legal trends.

Likewise, resources have to be allocated towards streamlining the administration of the law courts through a series of crucial changes. The changes include providing judges with support to fast track cases, which are annually on the increase, and providing them with on- the-job education, better pay, and with further tools, knowledge and skills to enable them to deal with highly complex matters of banking and finance (which are foreign or uncommon to our country but are on the rise). This will guarantee a more efficient, fair, and speedier system.

Similarly, I would suggest amending the current law governing the legal professional practice by establishing a firm structure to regulate lawyers. Under this structure, lawyers would have greater powers to manage their affairs including, but not limited to, decisions on the welfare of lawyers, the issuing and withdrawal of licenses, and on the legislation itself. These decisions are to be applied across the board to ensure compliance and uniformity.

Additionally, I would suggest a full review of the laws that have been enacted in the 60’s and 70’s against recent laws to ensure that there is no discrepancy in order to issue and execute consistent judgements.

Finally, I would scrutinize and amend the Commercial Companies law to incorporate the best and most relevant commercial practices.

Is there anything else you would like to add? 

The legal  profession  is  a  sacred  profession. In a valueless world today, it  is  imperative that lawyers be more adherent to the rules, regulations, values and ethics of the profession. A lawyer with a high standard of knowledge and competence, combined with integrity and a sense of morals, will be able to  provide his clients with first-class services. To apply the above, lawyers must be assigned the necessary tools by licencing bodies and law courts to aid them in achieving their goals when defending cases so as to facilitate a fair and equitable result for their clients. LM

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