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UAE legal market 'performing well'

Posted by: Laurence Simons 22/05/14

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is almost as interesting to lawyers as it is to international businesses and dystopian novelists looking for an easy template on which to base their latest opus on the emergence of Mad Max-style warring cityscapes.

While it has been affected slightly by the economic downturn recorded internationally over the last few years, an upturn in M&A activity and investment attempts from the Asian market are bringing it back to the boil, a new report for the Law Gazette has indicated.

Despite the issues the various emirates - especially Dubai - faced during 2008 and 2009, confidence has returned to the market, along with the large companies on which this confidence is built.

Baker & McKenzie established an office in Abu Dhabi in February 2009, adding a Dubai site last year. One lawyer based out of this practice told the Law Gazette that new opportunities are likely to arise over the coming 12 months.

Pension funds and other institutional investors, mostly from Asia, are no longer being put off by the region's reputation as something of a risk.

"That is a vote of confidence in the market and I think this trend is going to continue," said the anonymous interviewee.

Although Abu Dhabi was the initial choice for many international firms keen to gain a foothold in the UAE, Dubai has risen in prominence since the Dubai International Finance Centre was established in 2004.

The majority of the world's top banks and insurance firms have a base there thanks to its favourable tax conditions, which makes it an attractive location for legal services providers keen to find new business.

Andrew Greaves, head of the Dubai office of Addleshaw Goddard, described their decision to move there as a strategic one. He also expressed optimism for further expansion.

"With the broader investment in hard and social infrastructure planned around the region, and given the success of Dubai in securing the Expo 2020 and the World Cup taking place in Qatar in 2022, coupled with the renewed confidence in the global economy, we see significant growth in real estate, projects and construction," he concluded.