How To Open a Law Firm In DubaiHave you recently graduated from law school and are now hoping to set up your own firm? Are you considering opportunities in North America, Europe, or the Middle East? Or are you an established lawyer looking to seize the opportunity of a fresh challenge in an exciting urban centre? If any of these circumstances apply to you, consider opening a law office in Dubai.This amazing city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the most exciting cities in the Middle East, and new law firms are continuously popping up and thriving in many different disciplines, such as real estate, corporate, tax and other specialties.This article explores the regulations surrounding setting up a law practice in Dubai. Many newly minted lawyers and experienced attorneys alike are turning to Dubai as a place rich with new and exciting opportunities. However, it’s important that you know the lay of the land first and that you’re well-versed in the regulations surrounding a new law venture in Dubai. Here’s a look at all you need to know before plunging in!
First Steps — How To Open a Law Firm In Dubai
- You Must Register
In Dubai, registering with the Ministry of Justice is your first step toward opening a law office in the city. This government agency can provide you with all the information you need and forms to complete before you can make your dream one step closer to reality. Even if you’re an experienced lawyer with a decade or two under your belt, this body must grant you a licence before setting up shop.
- You Must Connect With a Local Legal Eagle
Unless you’re a citizen of Dubai, you need to partner with a local lawyer in order to set up a practice. A local lawyer must meet the following criteria before partnering with someone, whether the newly arriving lawyer is from America, Europe or elsewhere in the Middle East:
They must be 21 years of age or older.
They must have practised for at least one year on a continual basis.
They must hold accreditation from an established, recognized institution like a university.
They must be a national of the UAE.
The legal systems of the Emirates operate slightly differently from each other. In case of Dubai, it has its own legal system, and it has three separate levels. They are:
The Court of First Instance. (Where cases are initially filed, as the name implies).
The Court of Appeal. (This level is self-explanatory).
The Court of Final Cassation. This level compares to Supreme Courts in other countries. (Cases not settled in the Court of Appeal may be taken on by this court, and its decisions are considered final).
When Is a Lawyer Not a Lawyer In Dubai?
There are two different types of legal professionals who can practice in Dubai. The first is called a legal consultation or advocate; the second is called a lawyer. Here’s a look at the duties of each category.
- Legal Consultants
Consultants (or advocates, as they’re often known) can perform many of the same duties as full-fledged lawyers. Those duties include:
They may give legal advice and offer opinions to their clients.
They may also draw up contracts and create and/or dissolve companies.
Furthermore, they may represent a client in front of an arbitration tribunal.
- Practising Lawyers
These professionals are allowed to represent clients in all levels of court in Dubai. These are the legal experts who must be licensed by the Ministry of Justice, and it’s important to note that even if one is a citizen of another Emirate, a licence must be granted to work specifically in Dubai.Dubai is a thriving business centre, and its bustling appeal is a huge draw to many in the legal profession. If you’re considering setting up a law firm in Dubai, here’s a roundup of the busiest types of law currently in demand. (These categories are from the Law Society of Dubai).
Finance and banking.
Resolution of disputes.
Commercial real estate projects and development.
Several criteria must be met if you were born outside the UAE and want to form a practice in Dubai. Knowing these will help smooth the process and get your firm up and running more quickly.
The firm must hold a valid licence from the Dubai Department of Economic Development. Applying for and obtaining this licence quickly should be your first priority.
You must also be registered as an ancillary service provider with the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA). This is vital because – as we mentioned previously – you must be teamed with a local lawyer who is a Dubai national to practice law in Dubai. And even so, as a foreign-born lawyer, you are not allowed to appear in court for your clients; that’s the job of your local partner.
What Else Should You Know Before Diving In?
Once you’ve taken all the steps necessary to practice law in Dubai, this new venture will undoubtedly be exciting and challenging. It’s important that you know more than simply the ins and outs of the legal system when you move to Dubai – you need to know and respect its culture and traditions.For example: did you know that PDAs (Public Displays of Affection), such as hugging or holding hands, are frowned upon in Dubai? This is the sort of custom you should be well versed in for two reasons: first of all, respecting a place’s valued traditions is essential in any circumstance. However, if you’re setting up a law firm in Dubai, it’s even more critical that you don’t break the rules! You may not end up in jail for a first infraction, but you won’t make a good impression on new colleagues and friends!Moving there without understanding that the Middle East, in general, but Dubai, in particular, has many unique aspects to life, there is no ideal way to begin settling. Do a lot of reading both online and at your local library; go shopping for books about this exciting city, and if possible, talk to friends and colleagues who’ve made a move. Being prepared, not just for practising law but for living your life to the fullest, is the best way to ensure you’re ready for the professional challenges that lie ahead.After starting the application processes to all the various bodies we’ve mentioned here, don’t forget that you need a Visa, too. Either talk to staff at the consulate if one is in your city or do some online research on timelines and other details well in advance of your move. Having your Visa in hand early will go a long way toward keeping you calm (but excited!) before moving to Dubai to establish yourself as a lawyer.
Dubai has been nicknamed “the city of gold” for a good reason – it is a huge hub of financial wheeling and dealing in the UAE. But Dubai, for all its many benefits and attractions, is not a city that’s cheap to live in. According to recent estimates by a research website based in Dubai, a single individual needs at least $1,000 (USD) in income each month to manage, and that doesn’t include the cost of renting your home and law office!Like New York and other major metropolises, Dubai real estate goes for premium prices, whether you’re buying a home or renting an apartment. If you’re hoping to rent in the city’s bustling centre, rental costs (for a one-bedroom apartment) run approximately $2,000 (USD). And you’ll have to rent office space for your new firm or contribute to it if you join an established practice. This is pricey, particularly if you’re in the city centre. We couldn’t find a truly representative rental price because there are too many variables, most notably location. But you’re looking at (at least) $10,000 (USD) annually to rent a small office for yourself fairly close to the city core.On top of these expenses, you have to factor in groceries, entertainment and other costs that accrue each month. Yes, Dubai is an expensive city to live in, no matter your profession. However, once you’re established as a lawyer in one of many thriving fields open to you in Dubai, you’ll have lots of work to support whatever lifestyle you choose.It can feel a little intimidating to consider moving to Dubai (or anywhere that’s brand new and challenging) to start a law practice – we get it! But there are so many benefits and marvellous opportunities in this “city of gold,” we think it’s well worth investigating. After all, you became a lawyer to tackle new and exciting issues, right?Moving to Dubai to set up a law practice is bound to give you opportunities galore. Whether you choose tax law, real estate development, or other possible avenues, practising law in Dubai is bound to be so exciting that you may never want to be a lawyer anywhere else!
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