Soldier turned solicitor sets up ABS with former special forces officer

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4 December 2015

Iraq tank

ABS advises firms on countries like Iraq

A soldier turned solicitor has set up an alternative business structure with a former special forces officer.

Proelium Law aims to provide commercial law, international law and security advice to businesses and other organisations wanting to operate in conflict zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Adrian Powell, who qualified as a solicitor after leaving the army, said: “Organisations wanting to work in places like Iraq or Afghanistan need to know about the pitfalls. The task is complex, but it can be done.”

Among the pitfalls, Mr Powell mentioned failing to honour contracts, significant levels of corruption, and the need for “counter-terrorism and rule of law strategies”.

He said the falling price of oil was making it harder for companies to operate in Iraq. “It doesn’t mean you can’t do business there, but you need to be realistic about getting paid.

“In Afghanistan, the Taliban is making a comeback and a political settlement needs to be found, but there is still industry and commerce. If you are going to go, the chances are that you are a defence and security contractor or an international organisation.”

Mr Powell said he left the army in 2000, after serving in the first Gulf War, Northern Ireland for two years and Germany for four years, including several tours of Bosnia.

He qualified as a solicitor at Abraham Solicitors, a criminal defence firm in Wrexham, in 2004. This was followed by just under a year as a senior prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service.

Returning to conflict zones, Mr Powell spent seven years in Iraq and Afghanistan, including acting as general counsel and carrying out legal training for the Iraqi Ministry of Defence.

He worked as a lawyer for Aegis, a private security company, spent two years in a counter-terrorism role in Afghanistan and worked for Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs on an EU project.

Mr Powell said he returned to this country at the start of this year, after working on a war crimes project focused on Syria, funded by the UK, US, Germany, Switzerland and Denmark.

The other partner in Proelium Law is Richard Stephens, a non-lawyer and formerly a senior officer in a special forces regiment.

Mr Powell said Mr Stephens would bring a “wealth of knowledge” on security matters.

Proelium Law became an ABS regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) last month, with Mr Powell in the roles of head of legal practice and head of finance and administration.

“It was quite an effort to become an ABS, but it was worth it, particularly as it gives a degree of comfort to companies that you are a law firm.”

He added that the firm, though based on the Wirral, would operate on a virtual model. “We will travel to clients, rather than increase their costs or face the big overheads of having an office. We’ve both been in tricky situations, and we can help people out with them.”

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