Following an extensive nomination process, Asia Business Law Journal reveals the top lawyers in the country. Lim Miran and Putro Harnowo report

Bangladesh has undergone trials and tribulations on its way to becoming the rising star of South Asia, but the pandemic has brought about a terrible blow and slowed economic growth. But as the global recovery takes shape, the nation’s legal industry is preparing to make the most of opportunities.

The country gained lower-middle-income status in 2015 and, three years later, it met the UN eligibility criteria to graduate from least developed country status, with the evolution becoming effective in 2026. The economy grew by an average of 6.9% from 2011 to 2019 and, despite the global health crisis, grew 3.5% in 2020. This year, economic growth is expected to increase to 5.5%.

However, the inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Bangladesh is significantly low compared with its regional peers, and even contracted by 11% in 2020 due to weak interest in its major export industry, garment production. As a comparison, FDI inflows to all developing countries in Asia increased by 4% in the same period, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) World Investment Report 2021.

Against this backdrop, Asia Business Law Journal presents its A-List of the top 50 lawyers practising in Bangladesh (see the list of all 50 lawyers and the key practice areas for which they are endorsed here). The list is based on extensive research conducted and nominations received from in-house counsel in the country and elsewhere, and from Bangladesh-focused partners at international law firms based outside the jurisdiction.

Comments submitted to Asia Business Law Journal suggest that being responsive and knowledgeable are must-have traits to solve clients’ legal issues, but giving easy to understand advice in complex transactions with complete transparency is highly regarded.

Nearly all of the A-List lawyers are located in the capital, Dhaka, the commercial heart and most densely industrialised place in the country, with a large middle-class population and home to many high-tech industries, corporations and numerous state and diplomatic institutions.

Global counsel

Aware of its weak investment inflow, the Bangladesh government is working hard to streamline its laws and reduce regulatory barriers, and many A-List lawyers have been acknowledged by their international clients and peers for navigating the related challenges.

Nasirud Doulah, managing partner at Doulah & Doulah, is praised by Angie Wachira, legal director at Ceva Logistics in Bangkok. “Nasir is instrumental in structuring foreign direct investments in Bangladesh,” says Wachira. “He has complete knowledge of local regulations, is responsive and provides pragmatic solutions.”

Marc Agius Fernandez, legal counsel at FIMBank at St Julian’s in Malta, agrees. “Doulah is very effective in structuring a cross-border transaction, especially in the alternative trade finance sector,” says Fernandez. “He has been very prompt in addressing our queries.”

Doulah’s colleague, partner Amina Khatoon, receives similar accolades. Ravi Chandran, country manager at IDP Education in Colombo, says: “Amina is a hardworking and persistent lawyer who can provide an innovative and pragmatic solution to any corporate issue. She also assists in corporate litigation matters effectively.”

Jean-Paul Chan, Bangladesh country head of fashion retailer the Edinburgh Woollen Mill in Dhaka, also applauds Khatoon. “Amina is a powerhouse and she, with her team, can address every corporate law issue. She also possesses very good litigation expertise.”

David Leggott, a partner at Hogan Lovells in London, nominates M Imtiaz Farooq, managing partner at Farooq and Associates, for being “sharp and incisive, always delivering ‘to-the-point’ advice in a format which is easy to understand, and he is a pleasure to work with.”

The virtuoso

Assisting global clients effectively will not prevail without a deep understanding and expertise in complex local regulatory processes, an ability that can always be expected from top lawyers in the country.

“Very in-depth solutions for legal matters, well equipped on law and practices, and sincere service,” says Mohammad Shahriar Kabez, vice president at First Security Islami Bank in Dhaka, when nominating the head of Rahman’s Chambers, Mohammed Forrukh Rahman.

“In addition, the firm keeps conducting the session, training and awareness programme on contemporary legal issues in business and trade for service holders and professionals in related fields,” says Kabez.

Rahman’s expertise is also commended by Tetsuro Kano, chief representative general manager at Japanese general trading company Itochu Corporation in Dhaka. “His advice is always logical and definite, based on the law and objective fact,” says Kano. “He is one of the most trustable people in my network.”

Saqeb Mahbub, a partner at Mahbub & Company, is said to have “good communication skills, is versatile and has an excellent ability to provide practical advice,” according to Nilufar Mannan, senior group legal counsel at Ericsson Bangladesh in Dhaka.

Nafisa Sher, manager of environmental and social at the Power Grid Company of Bangladesh in Dhaka, says that Wahid Sadiq Khan, a senior partner at Obiter Dictum, is “very co-operative, with great problem-solving ideas”.

Sameer Sattar, founder and head of Sattar & Co, is applauded by Rizwan Rahman, managing director at trading company ETBL Holdings in Dhaka, as a “band 1 lawyer in Bangladesh for corporate finance”.

Leading ladies

The A-list of top lawyers is also filled with seven powerhouse women in the realm of law in Bangladesh, including: Tania Amir, a partner at Amir & Amir Law Associates; Sara Hossain, a partner at Dr Kamal Hossain & Associates; Rashna Imam, managing partner at Akhtar Imam & Associates; senior partner Nihad Kabir and partner Nazia Kabir, at Syed Ishtiaq Ahmed & Associates; Anita Rahman, founder and managing partner at the Legal Circle; and Amina Khatoon, at Doulah & Doulah.

Compiling the A-List

The A-List is based on extensive research conducted by Asia Business Law Journal. To identify the top 50 lawyers in Bangladesh, we turned to thousands of in-house counsel in Bangladesh and around the world – as well as partners at international law firms – and asked them to tell us which lawyers should make the cut, and why.

Nominations were made by professionals at a wide range of Bangladesh and global companies, including: Burj Energy International Management, Ceva Logistics, China Construction Bank, Commerzbank, CREC International Renewable Energy, Ericsson Bangladesh, ETBL Holdings, FIMBank, Findmyfare, First Security Islami Bank, Gulf Pharmaceuticals, Hogan Lovells, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, ING Bank, Itochu Corporation, Maruhisa Pacific, Maxim Label & Packaging, Monowara Group, Power Grid Company of Bangladesh, SHS Holding, Sun City, Taiwan Persotex Corporation, Tetrapak, the Edinburgh Woollen Mill, the Social Loan Company, UAE-BD Investment Company, Uflex, and many more.

Thorough editorial research followed the nomination process. The final list reflects the nominations received, combined with Asia Business Law Journal editorial team’s more than 30 years of collective experience. All Bangladesh private practice lawyers were automatically eligible for inclusion in the nominations process and, as always, there were no fees or any other requirements for entry.

The names and photographs of all 50 A-List lawyers are published following this article. In addition, each A-List lawyer was given the opportunity to include their biography and contact details, for which a publishing fee was charged.

It is important to note that while the compilation of the A-List was based solely on independent editorial research, the biographies and contact details that appear alongside many of the listings have been written by the participating lawyers, and the content has not been independently verified by Asia Business Law Journal.

Bangladesh's top lawyers