In Dubai, as well as in many areas of the Middle East, lawyers were not always required to be licensed. In fact, it wasn’t until 2011 in the Dubai Executive Council Decision No 22 that this licensing requirement was brought into law.
The regulations for practicing the law in the Emirate now requires that all legal practitioners, including legal consultants and UAE-licensed attorneys, must now follow the same regulations. This has made it easier for people visiting or working in Dubai as well as residents of the area to be able to determine the qualifications of the professionals they are hiring as legal representatives.
It is important to realize that this is specifically related to licensing in Dubai. Most of the international law firms that practice in the city and within the UAE have attorneys on staff with law licenses from other countries, often their country of citizenship or past residence as well as in other areas of the world where they may have previously practiced the law. These licenses are important, but they are not recognized to allow a lawyer to practice law in a Dubai court.
For foreign individuals looking for legal advice, consultancy or legal representation, it is important to understand that lawyers have to be approved to appear before the UAE courts. These are professionals who are legal consultants as well as trial lawyers, and they have to be formally approved by the Ministry of Justice for federal court representation of clients.
Within the Dubai court system, the attorneys have to be approved by the Dubai Rulers Court Legal Department in order to address the court on behalf of a client. There are independent courts and judges in Dubai working in the three court systems.
There is a Court of First Instance, a Court of Appeal and finally the Court of Cassation. To make things a bit more challenging to understand, each of these courts will hear civil cases, criminal cases as well as Shari’a law. The Shari’a law division in the courts is not just reserved for Muslims and can apply to visitors to the country who violate Shari’a law. Within Dubai, there is also a Labour Court as well as a Property Court, which are primarily used for businesses and commercial enterprises.
The court proceedings are heard by one judge or several judges on a panel but not by juries. Additionally, precedent, or what has happened in past cases, is not used to set the bar for current cases before the court, which is very different than the litigation process in many countries. Courts may publish their judgments, but these are typically only from the higher courts and used to assist the lower courts.
Experience is Critical
With the complexity of the court system as well as the various approvals required to appear before the courts, it is no wonder that many of the legal issues in Dubai are handled without the need for litigation.
Attorneys are often used as consultants during a wide variety of business and commercial activities, very similar to how they are used in other areas of the world. By choosing an attorney with corporate experience in your industry as well as in the specifics to your legal needs you will find a professional with the training, knowledge, and expertise to be able to advise you and draft legal documents and contracts that are fully compliant with all local requirements.
Of course, lawyers in Dubai can also represent those facing criminal charges. Often when foreigners are charged, it will be essential for the attorney to not only provide legal representation to the client but also to explain the process and procedure through the court system as well as the possible outcomes as the case progresses.
In Dubai, as everywhere else, most lawyers will specialize in a relatively small number of practice areas. The more experience the attorney has in a particular specialization, the more expertise, he or she will have to provide legal counsel and representation for their client.
International or Local Firms
There is two distinct type of firms operating in Dubai when it comes to the practice of the law. There are local law firms owned and operated by Emirati lawyers, and there are international firms that may have multiple offices both inside and outside of the UAE.
In a decision in 2011, international attorneys, also called Non-Emirati lawyers, were granted the legal right to appear in front of the courts up to the Court of Cassation. While these attorneys are still not able to practice in federal courts, the ruling provided greater opportunities for international law firms to provide highly specialized attorneys with the ability to go before the courts.
Size of the Firm
The size of the firm is also largely determined by the international or local distinction. Most international firms tend to offer a significant number of practice areas from the corporate and commercial law through to criminal defense, employment, real estate, alternative dispute resolution as well as intellectual property and business setup.
Larger law firms tend to use a team approach to provide support for their clients. This a very different experience for the client than a small firm with one or two attorneys. With attorneys from a variety of different specializations and with international legal experience, more effective and creative options for resolving disputes or even litigating cases is a natural outcome.
For individuals in Dubai in need of an attorney, working with a larger international firm may be the best option. This is particularly true for a foreign individual who may not understand the process, the options and the differences between their countries handling of specific legal issues and what is practiced in the UAE.
Look for a company that is established in the UAE and not a law firm that has just recently started practicing in Dubai. This allows you to choose an attorney that is already known and respected in the legal community as well as through the courts. In any legal matter, even if litigation is not a possibility, the more experienced the attorney is in that particular area of the law the better it will for the client.
Use an online search engine or talk to colleagues and friends to find references for quality lawyers in Dubai. With this list of firms and attorney recommendations, it is easy to review the information provided by the law firm and the areas of practice through the website.
Verify on the website that the law firm has experience and expertise in the type of matter where you need assistance. Reading blogs and finding out more about the practice focus and the philosophy of the legal firm will always be a critical step. A company that works to resolve issues through dispute resolution practices rather than litigation will help to speed up the process. However, the firm should also be fully prepared to go to court should the dispute resolution fail.
Develop a list of no more than three law firms in the area that meet your requirements. Give each of the firms a call and schedule an initial consultation. This will allow you to assess the services, professionalism, and expertise of the legal team at the firm before making your final decision. Browse the website www.stalawfirm.com for more information.