10 June 2020

Former Dubai international courts head Mark Beer sets up practice in Kazakhstan

Mark Beer

Mark Beer: Kazakhstan 'one of the world's most exciting regions, connecting East and West'

Launch of Seven Pillars Law coincides with opening of Almaty disputes boutique

Mark Beer, the former chief executive of Dubai’s DIFC Courts and Dispute Resolution Authority, has launched a law firm in Kazakhstan.

The opening of Seven Pillars Law — in association with legal operations support provider GLS Group — coincides with the unveiling of the country’s first litigation boutique, Tukulov & Kassilgov.

Both moves come as mineral-rich Kazakhstan seeks to position itself as Central Asia’s commercial and legal hub following the opening of the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) in 2018 and the investment of $30bn in infrastructure projects over the last ten years.

Beer has teamed up with Kim Siegel, a managing director at Singapore-based GLS Group, to set up the practice, which will operate a virtual — or ‘decentralised’ — model and offers legal advice in corporate, finance and disputes.

Beer, who advised on the establishment of the AIFC having stepped down as chief executive of the DIFC Courts in 2018, described Central Asia as “one of the world’s most exciting regions, connecting East and West and at the heart of global trade”.

“I wanted to synthesise the modern law firm business model of being ‘distributed’, along with our focus on innovation, technology, smart contracts and blockchain, hence ‘decentralised’,” he said.

“We will have a team in Kazakhstan, and an office and meeting rooms in AIFC. Kim and I will spend time in Kazakhstan, the UK and other markets as needed. We will attend regularly, work virtually, including with local and international lawyers.”

Beer is chairman of UK judicial think-tank the Metis Institute, co-founder of the University of Oxford's Deep Technology Dispute Resolution Lab and chair of the AIFC’s LawTech panel. 

Siegel spent more than a decade working in-house at Standard Bank Group in Johannesburg, specialising in corporate governance and risk management.

Meanwhile, Tukulov & Kassilgov Litigation brings together two experienced Almaty based commercial dispute resolution lawyers: Bakhyt Tukulov and Ravil Kassilgov.

Tukulov is former head of dispute resolution at local firm GRATA International while Kassilgov has operated as a sole practitioner since 2015.

With many Kazakh independent law firms conflicted between corporate activity in the energy and infrastructure sectors, and international law firms acting for state or state-owned entities, TKL’s vision is to provide conflict-free advice that combines international experience – Tukulov spent time at legacy Dentons firm Salans – with local pricing.

‘Dispute resolution in Kazakhstan is anything but simple,’ the firm said in a statement. ‘Apart from the risk of corruption in courts, high discretion of judges, lack of consistent judicial practice on most issues of law, there are many other factors that make dispute resolution in Kazakhstan hardly predictable.’

Disputes arising out of Kazakhstan have had a major impact on the UK courts. 

The marathon $10bn Ablyazov fraud litigation, in which Hogan Lovells partner Chris Hardman advised BTA Bank was one of the largest fraud cases ever heard in the UK.

It developed more than 60 valuable precedents, including a 2015 Supreme Court decision, demonstrating the English courts’ willingness to assist enforcement of judgments against evasive judgment debtors. 

More recently, the 2020 National Bank of Kazakhstan litigation, which was heard remotely in March, involved London lawyers from Linklaters, Stewarts, King & Spalding and counsel from 3 Verulam Buildings, and Fountain Court. 

The case involved litigation against Bank of New York Mellon in a $350m claim.  

International firms with a presence in Kazakhstan include Baker McKenzie, Reed Smith, White & Case and Dentons.

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