Lawyers at Sidley have frequently been seated at the table when laws that impact the way their clients do business are being drafted. So, too, is the case in Mongolia, where the firm’s lawyers are currently meeting with government officials and business leaders there to effect dramatic changes in the country’s arbitration law.
“The law will be helpful to the country and to international investors all over the world because it will create a more effective mechanism for dispute resolution in Mongolia,” said Ayaz Shaikh, a Sidley partner in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office with longstanding experience in Mongolia. Based on international best practices, the new law is expected to significantly improve the legal environment for domestic and international arbitration in the country.
Shaikh, a member of the Project Finance and Infrastructure practice, has been advising clients conducting business in Mongolia since 2009. In the process, he developed a strong working relationship with a Mongolian law firm, MDS & KhanLex LLP. Together with lawyers at that firm, David Roney of Sidley’s International Arbitration team, is currently working on a pro-bono basis with the USAID/Mongolia Business Plus Initiative to develop a state-of-the-art arbitration law and obtain legislative approval of it.
Roney worked on the concept paper for the law, which was received favorably and has since been approved by the Ministry of Justice. He and Andrew Fox of the London office then led an open dialogue forum with members of the private and public sectors to ensure consensus on the new statutory framework. The team is now working on finalizing the law so that it may be brought to a vote before the country’s parliament.
Roney, who expects that vote to take place within the next few months, said he jumped at the chance to take leadership of the project in June when Ayaz brought the matter to the International Arbitration team.
“I had previously been involved in another law reform project in Canada, which provided excellent background for this,” said Roney, who is a member of the Advisory Board for the International Arbitration Project of the Uniform Law Conference of Canada, which seeks to harmonize the country’s laws for its provinces and territories.
He was gratified by the opportunity to work with the people of Mongolia, whom he described as bright, warm and inviting. He was equally attracted to the opportunity to effect change. “It is wonderful to make a real contribution to the rule of law in a country that is working to put in place a modern and effective legal framework to achieve important economic objectives for the betterment of its people,” Roney said.
He described the firm’s work in Mongolia as the perfect example of Sidley’s ability to harness the talent of lawyers across a variety of disciplines in its offices internationally. Others working on matters involving Mongolian clients include Prabhat Mehta in Singapore, who, early on, helped Shaikh further establish the Mongolia practice at Sidley, Matt Shankland in London and Tao Lan in Beijing. The team has secured a number of significant victories, including a recent one led by Shankland working in collaboration with the MDS & KhanLex firm: The representation of Ulaanbaatar Railways in its successful US$55 million jurisdiction battle against Standard Bank PLC in London High Court, which yielded a landmark ruling for a Mongolian company.
Shaikh explained why he first became interested in working in Mongolia. “It is a country with substantial potential. They have a relatively small population of three million and are sitting on a vast expanse of territory replete with natural resources,” he said, adding, “Mongolia has always been a promise that is one step away. It is exciting for us to be a part of its development by helping to improve its legal infrastructure.”
From left to right, the photo features:
(1) Maizorig Janchivdorj (MDS & KhanLex LLP)
(2) Andrew Fox (Sidley Austin LLP, London)
(3) Dugerjav Dash-Onolt (MDS & KhanLex LLP)
(4) David Roney (Sidley Austin LLP, Geneva)
(5) Cameron Sadeghi (Sidley Austin LLP, Hong Kong)
The photo is taken in front of the “Nine White Banners,” the peacetime symbol of the Mongolian state, located in the State Ceremonial Hall of Mongolia’s State Palace.