Eristavi Law Group has been able to provide a well-rounded programme for its clients despite its status as a relative newcomer in the Georgian law circuit
Historically, the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi, has been a welcoming home to a broad range of diverse cultures, religions and ethnic backgrounds. It’s appropriate, then, that Eristavi Law Group (ELG) has its headquarters based in the culturally vibrant city, as the firm has been recognised internationally for the varied and assorted scope of its legal services, its ground-breaking range of products and advisory services, and in particular its work in areas such as crisis management and corporate governance.
Managing Partner and Lead Counsel in the firm’s transport, commercial and procurement law practices, Revaz Beridze has had over 12 years of experience working with significant international organisations, including the World Bank, the EU, the USAID, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, making use of the four languages he speaks. A key figure in the deployment of a number of multi-million dollar projects in the region, and an important contributor to developing significant international tax reforms, including Law on Pharmaceuticals, and the Global Financial Initiative, Beridze was the Deputy Chairman of the State Procurement Agency of Georgia prior to becoming a partner with ELG. He is very proud of how far the law firm has come in such a small space of time.
ELG was founded in 2009, but has grown quickly. What challenges have you faced finding a place for yourselves in the market?
That is absolutely correct. We were founded in 2009 and it has taken a supreme amount of effort to take our place among the top Georgian law firms. The entire process was challenging; there are lots of law firms with corporate histories of at least 10 years, with established practices and reputable client relations. But we managed to gather legal professionals of the highest qualification with outstanding track records, and earn credibility by providing top quality legal services to our clients. Yes, it was demanding, but we successfully managed to move the business forward.
In 2010, you joined forces with US firm Hall Booth Smith & Slover. How has this relationship benefitted ELG?
First of all, I should underline that HBSS is one of the leading law firms in the US’ southeast. We were and are proud to be the only Georgian law firm to exclusively represent the interests of their clients in this country. This October, it will be two years since we partnered with HBSS. We share common values and vision with the firm on how to serve our clients. The partnership means potential investors’ interests will be protected in Georgia by reputable international and local law firms, and it also expands our abilities to better represent our clients worldwide.
Are there any more plans in the pipeline to extend your profile internationally?
Last year, we expanded to other locations in Georgia, and we also have a full service office in Batumi – a beautiful business and tourist centre on the Black Sea coast, up and running since September 2011. We plan to open another office in Kutaisi, the newly emerged Parliamentary capital of Georgia and, lastly, ELG plans to open a representative office in London. We are in the process of solving the various technicalities and we very much hope we will be able to have our UK office up and running by the end of 2012.
Our Batumi branch is a full service office and is headed by Associate Partner Mr Zurab Garuchava. Prior to joining the firm, Mr Garuchava was the Head of the Legal Department at the RAKIA Georgia Free Industrial Zone in Poti in Georgia. He has an extensive background in international and transportation law and impressive professional experience that includes positions as Head of the Law Office at the Georgian National Transport Regulatory Commission in Tbilisi, Head of the Legal Division at the Georgian Maritime Transport Administration in Batumi, and senior lawyer at the Poti Sea Port.
Currently our Batumi office covers Poti – the main transport hub for Georgia and the whole region as well as rest of Western Georgia – but we plan to open an office in Kutaisi, where the Georgian Parliament will be located from the autumn of 2012.
You offer your corporate clients a variety of customised packages. What kinds of services can they expect?
The terms of a service package may be personalised based on client’s requests and legal needs – it can be very basic or might entail a full service, including our in-house lawyer services. We offer our fee based on the client’s decision on the extent of our services and we are very flexible in terms of decision making as we immediately react to the business environment. Our approach of fixed monthly fees has proven to be a very effective tool in relation to our clients. We will continue with our existing pricing schemes but, in parallel, we will offer clients a more innovative approach which will make relations with us 100 percent beneficial. We are proud to consider ourselves pioneers with regard to sales, and our team here is working towards the creation of new products that we can offer to potential clients. Our services are affordable for almost everybody.
There is a corporate governance advisory programme available at ELG. What are the benefits of your firm’s services?
Today, there are many leading international organisations, institutional investors and conferences that are making an effort to improve corporate governance practices all over the world. In Georgia, corporate governance advisory services were offered by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) for a number of years, before the organisation transferred their know-how and methodology to ELG in 2010. ELG now exclusively offers its clients the same expertise that IFC benefited from. Through their work with IFC, companies adopted international standard best practices in management systems and, as a result, were able to obtain external capital. In addition to securing funding for business, ELG’s corporate governance programmes will help protect companies against risk, structure management systems according to internationally recognised standards, and gain the competitive edge necessary to become the market leader in corporate governance and corporate culture. ELG’s corporate governance team has extensive practical experience in the area, gained both in Georgia and abroad, and is headed by partner and lead counsel in the corporate law practice, Kakha Kuchava. Our team’s international experience and fluency in the latest industry trends gives our clients a high chance of success.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a hot topic these days. How does ELG help to build trust in business?
From its very inception, ELG made it its mission to actively contribute to economic, social and environmental improvements in Georgia. Our CSR programmes were built to encourage working towards a cleaner environment and positive community growth, while fostering an overall sense of solidarity and unity within the firm.
Today, CSR is an indispensable part of our firm’s culture, from our day-to-day operations to our products and services. It reflects our firm’s core belief in acting in a socially responsible and ethical manner that benefits our employees, clients and society at large. CSR is more important than ever during the current financial downturn, and at ELG we believe that socially responsible corporate behaviour can help to build, and rebuild, trust in business.
What kind of work does the company undertake in the local community?
We are very proud of our contributions to community services which have included a new Icon Drawing Centre for the Rustavi Prison; a fully equipped computer room at the Avchala Juvenile Facility enabling underage detainees to learn and be certified in office software; an employment programme for TSU law students with our firm; and a charity auction benefitting senior citizens over the age of 100 and orphaned children with serious illnesses, that collected over 30,000 Georgian Lari recently. We also provide significant funding for charity house Catharsis, which donates food and provides shelter for a vast number of elderly citizens in the capital.
How do you hope to emulate your success in the future?
I can simply say that it is our philosophy – ethics, efficiency, dedication, strategy, innovation and achievement – which enables us to act in the best interests of each of our clients, and with the highest standards of professionalism. As always, ELG will continue to strive for the satisfaction of our clients by providing the highest quality in legal services.