*This article may have affiliate links, which means we may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links we provide (at no extra cost to you). For more details, please read our privacy policy/affiliate disclosure. Thank you for supporting the work we put into this blog!

How To Open a Law Firm In Dubai Have 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.
  • Islam­ic finance.
  • 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 have a com­mer­cial licence from the Dubai Inter­na­tion­al Finance Cen­tre (DIFC).
  • 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?

how to open a law firm in dubai 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.

In Summary

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!

How To Be a Lawyer In Dubai? — Maria Rubert Video

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join Our Mailing List To Receive The Latest News and Updates From Our Team. Don't Miss a Post! Get the Weekly Newsletter Sent Right to Your Inbox!

You have Successfully Subscribed!