KUALA LUMPUR: Zaid Ibrahim & Co, Malaysia’s largest law firm with 130 lawyers, will open overseas offices in Sydney and Melbourne, adding to six it has in Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Dubai.
Their primary focus would be to promote syariah-compliant business when they open early next year, the company said in a statement yesterday.
Australia is looking to break into the US$1 trillion global Islamic finance industry. Interest payments are banned under syariah law, which instead promotes profit-sharing agreements or structures that resemble rentals. Such deals are typically backed by physical assets, including natural resources, which Australia has in abundance.
“We decided to expand our presence to Australia in view of the tremendous interest in Islamic finance and syariah-compliant advisory services,” said Datuk Dr Nik Norzrul Thani, the company’s chairman and senior partner, in the statement.
Australia allows foreign law firms to practise non-Australian law and to partner Australian lawyers. The country has asked for wider access to Malaysia, which this year said it will allow international law firms to open offices for the first time.
Malaysia’s Bar Council opposed the plan, which will only allow the foreign firms to advise on Islamic finance.
Zaid Ibrahim & Co said it hoped to use its new offices to connect potential investors and businesses from the Middle East with Australia.
Malaysia’s former law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim founded the law firm but left when he joined the Government in 2008.
The firm has six offices in Malaysia and an alliance with Singapore’s largest firm by lawyers Allen & Gledhill LLP.
Skrine with 93 lawyers and Shook Lin & Bok with 87, are the second and third largest Malaysian law firms, according to Asian Legal Business. — Bloomberg
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