Establishment of first branch office of an international law firm in Iran

Airbus, Total, Renault, Peugeot and now Gide are brands that have entered, re-entered or re-engaged the Iranian market over the past two years since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with remarkable speed. Observers are of the view that the domestic market of 80 million people and surrounding Middle East and Central Asian market of about 400 million inhabitants is a considerable opportunity that should be taken seriously.

 Over the past few years in Iran, we have grown accustomed to the fact that cooperation with other companies may be limited to technical expertise and transfer of knowhow, cooperative production, cross-border finance, and project investment. However, domestic and foreign experts have emphasized that certain professional services, including legal and financial advice and consultancy, are the missing link in Iran’s relations with the international parties. When it comes to renewed cooperative enterprise between Iran and abroad, Iranian companies and their foreign partners may face gaps in their ability to obtain necessary support and expertise from the advisory and consultancy sectors while conducting business in Iran. Since the start of President Hassan Rouhani’s first term and up until the present, specialized workshops have continued to be held by foreign experts both inside and outside of Iran in order to lay the foundations for the transfer of expertise in legal, advisory and consultancy fields.  These efforts have begun from the ground up, and so, for instance, it has been emphasized that the use of the Farsi language in official Iranian documents may present challenges for foreign companies, as would the manner in which such documents are drafted. This has put a greater premium than ever on the need for competent, qualified and experienced legal service advisors in Iran, as seen by the entry of firms like KPMG and Gide to the Iranian market..
Iran’s economy has continued to enjoy the benefits of the negotiations concluded between the government and the President as well as the senior officials of France in February 2016, which set the stage for renewed cooperation and significant investment by French corporations with Iranian counterparties.  The presence of Airbus, Renault, Peugeot, Total, Alstom, and now Gide Loyrette Nouel, France’s leading law firm, practically confirm the continuity of the presence of French companies in Iran.  Gide, in particular, with over 60 years’ experience, recently inaugurated its registration as the first and only branch of a foreign law firm in Iran, and it is expected that many more French companies will follow in their footsteps. .
The attendance of a wide breadth of industry leaders, high-ranking officials and prominent figures in the French and Iranian business communities demonstrates the fundamental basis for the establishment of an international law firm in Iran. Former French Foreign Minister, and the French ambassador to Tehran, as well as senior partners of Gide all expressed in equal measure their commitment to Iran and the Iranian market during the ceremony to mark the official commencement of the firm’s activities on the evening of September 12th.
Of course, France sees itself as one of the European economic powers competing to strengthen ties with Iran. Germany and Italy have also entered the industrial and mining sectors in recent years, but neither has done so with the strength and diversity of commitment as France.   It is for this reason that Gide, a uniquely French institution by tradition and practice, is the only foreign law firm operating as a fully-fledged branch in the country.
Gide currently provides advisory and legal services in the fields of banking and finance, international competition and trade, intellectual property rights, communications, health care and pharmaceuticals, industrial risk, transportation, infrastructure, and hydrocarbons.
Pierre Gide founded the firm as one of the first true French law firms in 1957, having started his original legal practice 1920. The firm, which has always emphasized the need to maintain its professional independence, has 600 lawyers and 15 offices in 13 countries worldwide. Tehran is the fifteenth office and Iran is the thirteenth country that Gide has joined.
In addition to heralding the renewed presence of France in Iran, the launching of Gide’s office is projected to have a number of supportive consequences for both Iran and the foreign companies and investors returning to the market. First, it will encourage the presence and bolster the confidence of multinational businesses in the country since it sends out a positive signal to other nations affirming that Iran is a safe destination for their capital and that their rights will be legally protected. Second it shows that there is an ability to transfer successfully experience and knowledge between Iran and other nations.
Finally, and most important, the entry of Gide is hoped to allay outstanding concerns about the standardization of legal texts and documents in Iran; we can expect, going forward, the gradual integration of international standards with Iranian legal documents, including the contractual frameworks which will underpin major transactions which are soon to come.

Iran’s commitment to JCPOA
During Gide’s inaugural ceremony, both senior French diplomats and Gide partners focused on strengthening the ties between the two countries and paving the path to Iran’s progress. The French Ambassador, in particular, condemned the U.S. government’s stance against Iran after JCPOA.
Former French Foreign Minister, Hubert Vedrine, reviewed some measures undertaken to boost the relations between the two countries. His latest presence in the country dates back to the previous year when the cooperation between Iran and Air France was resumed.
 “Gide is established as the only international law office in Iran, and we provide it with full support,” he said.
“Given the current situation, a bright horizon is opened up for the two countries. The concurrence of Iran and France elections has increased the possibility of reaching further development in the relations. In my opinion, strengthening the ties between the two countries is not [yet] far-reaching,” he underlined.
 According to Vedrine, Gide’s presence in Iran paves the way for other leading companies.
Referring to the policies of the current U.S. government, he said “In a situation where the Trump government and the Republicans are blocking the path of Iran’s progress, the courage of Gide’s team for establishing an office in Iran is admirable. This intelligence and right strategy led to a co-operation between the French and Iranian companies.”
He maintains that in spite of the outlandish and belligerent behavior of Tramp, which defies prediction, there is still disagreement about Iran among U.S. politicians, who have yet to be convinced that the U.S. President’s baseless allegations are in any way true.
With this in mind, Former French Foreign Minister emphasized that Iran has completely abided by the provisions of the JCPOA.
According to Vedrine, the only solution to the current situation is the commitment of all  the countries to the signed agreement in JCPOA.
“ Iran has shown that it honors the agreement and Europe, Russia, as well as China are following the same approach. In this situation, Gide’s presence, as the first international law firm in Iran, is a sign of trust and hope”, he stated.

Establishment of Gide, a positive result of JCPOA
Emphasizing on the quality of the branch, Senior Partner of Gide, Baudouin de Moucheron, said “We should not ignore the aspect of quality in setting up a law firm; therefore, the most prominent lawyers need to be employed.”
Acknowledging that setting up a firm office in Tehran is not easy, Moucheron pointed out that all the measures will be undertaken to identify and hire talented workforces, as demonstrated by the capabilities and résumés of the current Gide team in Tehran.
According to him, employing skilled people in Iran is easier than what was previously thought.
Mehrnoosh Aryanpour, Head of Gide office in Tehran, on her part, emphasized that the firm’s establishment in Iran is one of the greatest achievements of the recent negotiations.
Calling JCPOA a major historical event, she added, “This agreement not only opened the Airbus route to Iran but also led to the resumption of the business relations with other significant companies, including Gide.”
Vedrine highlighted that despite the fact that Iran is facing some financial challenges due to remaining primary and secondary sanctions, the country will continue to make progress and restrictions imposed by U.S. will not be effective.
“The fact is that many U.S. companies are eager to join the Iranian market and their presence can be beneficial,” he added.

Supporting Iran
François Sénémaud, the French Ambassador to Iran, also noted that Iran’s commitment to the international agreement is genuine.
“France is also committed to the deal and will continue to support Iran,” he cited.
Concluding that the agreement made it possible to expand relations between the two countries, he said “I believe that Gide’s arrival to Iran will also help the development of economic cooperation. It also contributes to the companies’ ability to transfer their expertise. Besides, the legal approach helps European companies to get reasonably familiar with Iran, which ultimately leads to a sense of trust and security.”
He called on all French businesses to help the development of Iran-France relations.
Signaling that boosting relations with the world does not mean developing a fascination towards them, Mehrnoosh Aryanpour, the head of Gide’s office in Tehran, said “This is the first time that our generation knows the logic of foreign companies’ entry into Iran. We have found our status after four decades, and we are determined to define the mutual interests based on our interactions.”
Aryanpour pointed out that in the past, prominent Iranian lawyers used to go abroad for further studies. They also sought employment in neighboring countries, including Oman and Dubai and never returned to the country due to the lack of international law offices in Iran.
 “Currently, Dubai has 60 credible international law offices and 1,750 non-native lawyers. The question is whether the 80 million people in the Iranian market do not also need a similar number of international law offices?” she further asked.
She noted that despite a significant market with a hundred-year history, Iran did not have one-tenth of the international law offices in Dubai.
“Gide is the first and only branch of an international law office in Iran with several Iranian lawyers who are fluent in international and business languages,” she stated.
According to Aryanpour, when Gide founded the firm nearly 100 years ago in France, he probably did not imagine that his name would be brought to Iran, but it is achieved now and is in keeping with the traditions of the firm.
She noted that Iran and France had formed their business relationship since three and one-half centuries ago.
“By representing the law office of Gide, we want to let everyone know that it is no longer necessary for our distinguished lawyers to go to London and Paris to gain international experience,” she said, pointing out that France is the cradle of law and many of Iranian professors have graduated from French law schools.
“We will provide the Iranian lawyers with the necessary facilities to acquire essential experience in the country. So, they can work on major international projects. The establishment of this office in Iran is, in fact, a significant result of JCPOA, and pursuing macroeconomic policies of the resistance economy,” she said in conclusion.