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Life in the City of Gold – 7 reasons why you should be considering a legal career in Dubai

Posted by: Laurence Simons 23/08/16

Coined the City of Gold, Dubai is somewhat of an exception from its neighbouring emirates which constitute the United Arab Emirates (UAE), primarily in the respect that the region went from a modest shipping port to a firmly established global business destination in little over a generation. As the state continues to become an ever more attractive prospect for international businesses, an increasing number of law firms are being lured away from Abu Dhabi in favour Dubai’s International Financial Centre (DIFC) in turn attracting legal professionals from across the globe.

1. International work
A major factor that draws both law firms and lawyers themselves to Dubai is the international nature of the work. In international firms the work completed in finance and corporate teams is often both cross border in nature and incredibly complex, providing interesting challenges for ambitious professionals in relevant specialisms. Despite having a heavy focus on the energy, finance and construction sectors, the work completed in Dubai legal jobs is dynamic and diverse and will provide professionals with valuable overseas experience.

2. Common law system

Unlike England, which has a common law legal system, Dubai’s system is founded upon civil law principles and Islamic Shari’a law, and its civil court and Shari’a court operate in parallel. The emirate has enacted its right - under the UAE federal constitution - to retain its own independent court system, but these courts conduct themselves in Arabic and international lawyers are unable to appear before the court as legal advocates.

3. Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC)
However the establishment of Dubai’s most well-known free zone, the DIFC, made it an infinitely more attractive prospect for international firms. The DIFC allows 100 per cent foreign ownership of companies in comparison to the 49 per cent ownership allowed in non-free zones as well as additional tax concessions. In 2011 the DIFC opened its courts, which are conducted in English and based on common law, to disputes from any country making the process far more transparent and accessible for international firms.

4. Tax-free earnings
This is of course one of Dubai’s leading attractions for professionals. Lawyers often come for periods ranging from 1 to 10 years and return with a healthy amount of savings and international experience.

5. Tap into a global legal network
Dubai attracted lawyers from all over the world and is the perfect place to build your portfolio whilst making invaluable contacts and growing your network. We’ve worked with lawyers who have moved on to niche work around the globe that would simply not have been accessible without having put in the time at the City of Gold.

Dubai has a smaller market than some other legal hubs, so working here means you are more visible to clients and can build your personal brand much more quickly than you might in your home cities. You’ll also find you have a much greater variety of work across multiple jurisdictions given Dubai’s placement between East and West. It won’t only be at local MEA level and you’ll soon realise the sheer extent of Dubai’s business connections from the USA to China and East Asia. This is especially pertinent to lawyers thirsty for client contact and ready to accelerate their careers.

6. International courts
The DIFC’s shift towards open international courts, and the general trend towards the use of common law in commercial contracts across the Middle East means legal professionals that qualified in England are well positioned to thrive in Dubai’s well-established legal hub. Professionals also stand to benefit from the lack of income tax in the emirate, meaning that experienced professionals are likely to take home more significant remuneration packages than they might in the UK.

7. Social life
Contrary to some beliefs, professionals in Dubai have dynamic social lives, outside of the long working hours that are customary across the globe, and the state has a healthy late night culture. Professionals working in the state are not only able to take advantage of the year round sunshine it is well known for but also the wealth of attractions that have been constructed in recent years as the region continues to establish itself as a five star tourist destination and further diversify its economy.

Professionals looking to establish long careers in the highly prosperous state will likely already be aware of the cultural differences between the Middle Eastern nation and the UK, however it’s certainly worth considering whether these differences will be ones you are able to adapt to easily as many western customs can leave non-nationals liable to fines.

Legal jobs in Dubai are certainly attractive career prospects for international legal professionals, particularly those accustomed to common law systems, and the City of Gold offers an exceptionally dynamic lifestyle for ambitious lawyers who are considering roles overseas.

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