What to expect when moving to the Middle East

Author: Afraz Sajadi, Legal Recruitment Consultant in the Middle East, asajadi@leap29.com  

As a recruiter I get in touch with a lot of lawyers from the UK, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa about roles I am working on within the region, whether it be in Qatar, Oman or the UAE. Quite often I get the response that they are only interested in London opportunities and I fully understand why that would be the case. But I get the impression they dismiss the Middle East on hearsay and the fact they’ve never really looked into working in the region.

I thought it may be a good idea to speak to some candidates, 2 of whom I placed in the Middle East and 1 who I have worked with extensively.

I asked the following questions:

Candidate A: construction lawyer working in private practice

Candidate B: International Arbitration Lawyer working in private practice

Candidate C: Construction Lawyer working in private practice


What was the primary reason for you considering relocating to the region?

Candidate A: “The construction industry in my home country was in decline and I wanted to gain international experience. London was a tough market and I soon found out my skillset was suited to the nature of work in the Middle East; and naturally the extra money was nice too.”

Candidate B: “The tax-free income, and generally teams in the international firms are smaller than those in London. Therefore, the level of work and responsibility at a junior level is a lot higher.”

Candidate C: “To gain international arbitration experience, In the UK I gained some ADR experience (such as adjudication) and JCT and NEC contract experience but I really wanted to gain FIDIC contract and hands on arbitration experience particularly in the construction sector.”


What do you enjoy about living/working in the Middle East?

Candidate A: “The people are friendly, and it is an incredibly safe place to live - this played a major role in my decision making”

Candidate B: “The multicultural environment and the general lifestyle.”

Candidate C: “The lifestyle, for example there are plenty of dining options, and there is sun all year round and the multicultural environment.”


What did you find challenging about the move from a professional standpoint?

Candidate A: “Previously I had built strong relationships and a reliable reputation with my clients back at home, it was challenging to start again in a completely different jurisdiction with people from completely different backgrounds.”

Candidate B: “I didn’t find it difficult as I already worked in a relatively small team and was used to performing at a higher level than expected. Sometimes it is just me and the partner working on an assignment and running all aspects of the case.”

Candidate C: “Just generally working in a different jurisdiction and working in a smaller team.”


Did you encounter any difficulties making the move from a personal standpoint?

Candidate A: “Naturally, I miss my friends, family and home comforts - But being out of your comfort zone is what makes you grow personally and professionally.”

Candidate B: “Nothing.”

Candidate C: “My wife also had a good job back at home and our primary concern was if I took up a role within the region, would she be able to find work also.”


What advice would you give someone who is a bit unsure about the region?

Candidate A: “Visit if you can, join Facebook groups and forums for expats living in that particular country, they are always willing to help. The Middle East has a lot to offer but you must keep an open mind.”

Candidate B: “Go for the Money, stay for the increased responsibility, better client contact and superior training on the job.”

Candidate C: “Do as much research as you can and get involved with expat forums. Ask your recruiter as many questions as you can, you’re bound to have nerves about the move, but do not let that take over and change your mind.”


If you are currently looking for Legal job opportunities in the Middle East please contact Afraz Sajadi on asajadi@leap29.com or call him on +44 (0) 1625 537 555 for more information.