The U.S.-Saudi Business Council recently interviewed Fahad AlDehais AlMalki, Managing Partner of SuhailPartners LLP, a leading Saudi law firm specializing in several key industries and sectors. SuhailPartners provides expert legal advice on a variety of topics of interest to U.S. businesses entering the Saudi market, including corporate governance, mergers and acquisitions, commercial and regulatory compliance, and dispute management. The firm’s interdisciplinary and cross-cultural approach to working with clients is driven by sharing knowledge, understanding clients’ needs, and engaging in direct communication with decision-makers, ultimately enabling effective navigation of Saudi laws and practices for companies new to the country’s business and legal landscape.
What industries and sectors do you specialize in, and how do you approach working with clients in those areas?
At SuhailPartners, we specialize in several key industries and sectors to provide our clients with comprehensive and expert legal services in the following areas:
- Capital Markets and Corporate Governance.
- Corporate and Mergers and Acquisitions.
- Commercial and Regulatory and Compliance.
- Dispute Management and White Collar.
We are solutions-driven and success-based. Our approach is through sharing knowledge, learning clients’ actual needs, discussing local trends, soliciting feedback, and conducting direct communications with actual decision makers. We emphasize the importance of interdependencies and we work collaboratively to find the best options for delivering desired outcomes. Our team at SuhailPartners takes pride in our collective expertise and commitment to providing practical advice that enables our clients to effectively navigate Saudi laws and practices.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing businesses and investors in Saudi Arabia today, and how do you address those challenges in your work at Suhail Partners?
Ignorance. Most inbound businesses coming into Saudi Arabia lack the right knowledge of the business atmosphere and are hyped with irrelevant prejudices. Saudi Arabia is, further, now much more a rule-of-law nation. Some continue relying on relationships and connections in the era of online applications and legal compliance. Proper research and proper approach are a necessity, not a luxury.
Besides, the commercial activities in Saudi Arabia have been developed because of the positive changes in some laws and to keep up with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 of luring global investments, which would support the success of the local economy. However, it might be challenging to become familiar and aware of these updates, which make foreigner investors contract with legal services providers to adhere with government requirements.
Also, businesses and investors face various challenges that require careful consideration and expertise. At SuhailPartners, we understand these challenges and actively address them in our work to provide effective solutions for our clients. Some of the biggest challenges facing businesses and investors in Saudi Arabia today include:
- Legal and Regulatory Complexity: Saudi Arabia has a complex legal and regulatory framework that can be challenging for businesses and investors to navigate. We address this challenge by leveraging our deep understanding of Saudi laws and practices. Our team consists of professionals with extensive experience in private practice and regulatory authorities, enabling us to provide practical and informed advice to our clients. We stay up-to-date with the latest legal developments and ensure that our clients are fully informed about relevant regulations that impact on their operations.
- Cultural and Business Environment: Operating in a different cultural and business environment can present challenges for businesses and investors. At SuhailPartners, we have a deep understanding of the Saudi business culture and practices. We provide valuable insights and guidance to help our clients adapt and navigate the local business landscape effectively. Our team’s local expertise allows us to bridge cultural gaps and foster strong relationships with relevant stakeholders, facilitating smoother business transactions and operations.
- Economic Diversification and Vision 2030: Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 initiative aims to diversify the economy and reduce dependence on oil. This presents both opportunities and challenges for businesses and investors. We actively engage with the Vision 2030 agenda and keep abreast of the developments and initiatives that impact our clients’ industries. By understanding the government’s goals and priorities, we assist our clients in aligning their strategies and operations with the vision, facilitating their participation in the country’s economic transformation.
- Dispute Resolution: Resolving disputes in a timely and efficient manner is crucial for businesses and investors. At SuhailPartners, we have a strong focus on dispute management and resolution. With our experience in setting Saudi judiciary precedents and managing disputes worth billions of dollars, we provide strategic advice and representation to our clients. We aim to mitigate risks and find amicable resolutions whenever possible, helping our clients protect their interests and maintain positive business relationships.
Overall, we address the challenges facing businesses and investors in Saudi Arabia by leveraging our deep legal expertise, understanding of the local business environment, and active engagement with the country’s strategic goals. Our goal is to provide comprehensive and tailored solutions that enable our clients to navigate the complexities of doing business in Saudi Arabia successfully.
How do you see the role of private equity evolving in Saudi Arabia and the broader Middle East region in the years ahead, and how is Suhail Partners working to stay ahead of those changes?
Private equity (PE) is already taking momentous steps across all sectors in Saudi Arabia. The entrepreneur and venture capital industry is now living its golden era, and real estate has been pioneering in PE for close to a decade now. The Capital Markets Authority is making sure it is easier to continue investing and attracting local and foreign capital, and exit mechanisms are quite diversified as we also saw the first PE exit though an IPO.
What are some of the most common legal issues faced by businesses operating in Saudi Arabia, and how do you assist clients in addressing these issues?
Proper legal advice is like proper insurance. The coverage relies on the premium. The most common issue is the lack of proper legal representation and not consulting subject matter experts. When a Saudi company goes to invest in the U.S., they rely on local U.S. lawyers for their affairs. Vice versa: local Saudi lawyers or lawyers with their roots and connections embedded in the Saudi system are better aware of what to do, when, and how. We often see assumptions that matters or norms which work elsewhere are presumed to also be accepted or work locally until it is too late that they do not.
How do you approach working with international clients or clients from different cultural backgrounds, and what are some of the unique challenges you have encountered in these situations?
We try to better understand their end in mind and goals, then propose the best local position for them that aims to meet their expectations according to their understanding of global standards within local parameters.
SuhailPartners is a bilingual law firm and its members graduated from highly ranked universities with international expertise, which makes them culturally diverse and legally competent enough to deal with international clients.
At SuhailPartners, we understand the importance of effectively working with international clients or clients from different cultural backgrounds. We adopt a culturally sensitive and inclusive approach to ensure smooth communication, understanding, and collaboration. When working with international clients, we address the unique challenges that may arise in the following ways:
- Multilingual Capabilities: We value effective communication as a vital aspect of working with international clients. Our team members possess multilingual capabilities, enabling us to engage directly with clients in their preferred language. This linguistic proficiency facilitates clear and efficient communication, minimizing misunderstandings and ensuring accurate conveyance of legal advice and information.
- Cultural Competence: We recognize the significance of cultural differences and invest in developing cultural competence within our team. This includes understanding cultural norms, communication styles, business practices, and etiquette of different countries and regions. By being sensitive to cultural nuances, we foster stronger relationships and promote effective collaboration with international clients.
- Cross-border Legal Expertise: We have a strong foundation in international law and cross-border transactions. Our team is well-versed in the legal frameworks of various jurisdictions and can navigate complex legal issues that arise in cross-border matters. This expertise allows us to provide comprehensive guidance and address the unique legal challenges faced by international clients.
- Flexibility and Adaptability: We understand that each client and situation is unique. We approach every engagement with flexibility and adaptability, tailoring our services to meet the specific needs and expectations of our international clients. We are open to understanding their business objectives, legal requirements, and cultural sensitivities, ensuring that our advice and strategies align with their goals.
By building trust, fostering open dialogue, and leveraging our diverse expertise, we aim to bridge the gaps and create successful partnerships with clients from different cultural backgrounds. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that our international clients receive tailored legal advice and solutions that align with their specific requirements and objectives.
Over the next five years where do you envision U.S. companies having the most challenges and opportunities in the Saudi market?
Diversity of Saudi laws and heavy compliance versus easier legal environments in previous years. There are more regulatory bodies and many more laws and regulations that require constant governance.
For 2023, what are your U.S. clients and your firm hoping for in terms of changes to the market?
Faster engagement and faster delivery on commercial commitments between both parties. The trend between U.S. and Saudi counterparts post-Covid was to take matters very slowly. We surely hope it picks a faster pace.