Andrey Artyushenko, Managing Partner at Artyushenko & Partners, shares his views about legal business in Kazakhstan.
Tell us about your firm
Artyushenko & Partners (A&P) firm was founded in 2005 as a full services firm. We provide not only ordinary services but also developing specific solutions. With our clients’ interest at the centre of what we do, our ultimate goal is to understand the results they want to achieve. Although we started out as a full service law firm, the majority of our clients’ cases and businesses has been within the real estate sector.
In 2011, we decided to transform our full service firm into a niche real estate law firm. In the same year, Ospanova Gulnar , honourable judge in retirement, with over 33 years working experience at judicial bodies, court, law firms, joined the firm as a partner.
To date we have offices in Almaty and Astana (Kazakhstan) and we are the only real estate boutique law firm in Kazakhstan. The firm and our lawyers have experience of working with Top 100 International Contractors, the World Bank Group, Thomson Reuters, the big four, Siemens Kazakhstan and other respected companies.
In 2015, we started organising seminars and ‘master classes’ for in-house lawyers from companies such as: Siemens Kazakhstan, Shalkiya Zink, SAT&Co and Areva, and also corporate seminars for large companies such as AES and Development Bank of Kazakhstan. At our seminars we mainly cover FIDIC contracts application and adaptation in Kazakhstan, EPC and turnkey construction, construction regulations in Kazakhstan.
Have you ever worked as a lawyer abroad?
No. However, our firm has experience in corporate transactions of using different foreign jurisdictions and international law issues for tax planning. We have also written legal opinions for arbitration hearings outside of Kazakhstan.
How would you describe the current business climate in your country?
From a taxation point of view, Kazakhstan is a very friendly and low tax territory in comparison with other CIS and western countries but there are a number of challenges regarding state litigation and corruption. Therefore, foreign investors do face some risk.
There are many opportunities for companies working with international financial institutes like EBRD. For example in 2015, EBRD decided to restructure most of its investment from Russia to Kazakhstan and these are infrastructure projects and public private partnerships.
Our neighbour, China, is also looking at the Republic of Kazakhstan as a potential country to be the hub for goods and transportation between Europe and Asia.
What are the main opportunities and challenges for foreign law firms in your country?
We think that building networks is the best approach. There are only a few niche or specialised law firms in Kazakhstan. For getting a professional solution, one would need to find a specialist in the field first and then work with the firm, which the person works for.
Clients in Kazakhstan prefer fixed fees instead of hourly rates. They also prefer to make payments in local currency. Over the last 6 months, we have noticed delays in payment but believe that this is temporary due to the drop in oil prices and the economic slowdown in Kazakhstan.
What advice would you give to companies new to the country?
For developing local relations it is better to find a local partner, and understanding the local mentality is also very important.
What opportunities for co-operations are there between your country and UK law firms?
State authorities and high level consulting services prefer foreign law firm expertise.
Our recently established Kazakhstan Bar Association (KazBar) has opportunities for joint events, etc.
Do clients prefer smaller local firms or larger international networks?
This depends on the business client. In some cases the reputation and brand of service providers mean a lot, however, the final decision often depends on the service fee. Also, personal links are very helpful.
What are the practice areas you definitely think a European firm would find business in?
I think litigation in any field, energy sector, transport and infrastructure. These are the most active sectors in Kazakhstan at present.
What recent legal developments you have seen in your country?
There are more and more small law firms, but still, in my opinion, they do not have any marketing and market positioning. The Kazakhstan legal market is very small.
Are you aware of any changes that may affect or changes that took place and had an impact on the profession and practice rights in your country?
It is possible that representation before the Kazakhstan Supreme Court will go through some changes in future. There are discussions around making a separate accreditation for advocates to have the only right to represent clients in the Kazakhstan Supreme Court.
These views are the views of the author and not those of the Law Society.