Why Should Lawyers Consider a Move to the Middle East?

As a recruiter that specializes in recruiting Lawyers to the Middle East, one of the common questions candidates in the UK, US and Australia ask is, why move to the Middle East? Therefore, I thought it would be useful to share a couple of points, which might help any Lawyers currently considering their next move. 

I wanted to write an article aimed at dispute resolution and construction lawyers who have either never really considered a role in the Middle East or are not sure what the benefits really could amount to. The reason I am focusing on dispute resolution and construction, is due to the increasing demand for these lawyers in the Middle East. 

The demand in the Middle East and the work on offer

The Construction sector in the Middle East, particularly in Qatar and the UAE is very active. The majority of construction lawyers based in London or in other major cities in the UK will not have gained the opportunity to experience the major infrastructure and development projects that they would in the Middle East. 

The most popular destination for lawyers is still the UAE, in particular Dubai. Expats are drawn to the UAE due to the lifestyle on offer, tax free salary and the majority of international law firms have an office in Dubai. Therefore, allowing a potential smooth transition. 

One thing a move to the Middle East can offer that not many firms in London can, is the exposure to international arbitration as a form dispute resolution in the construction sector. In the UK, lawyers at leading UK firms without or with a limited international presence will find themselves predominantly handling disputes in the English courts and maybe the TCC. In the Middle East, the elite, international, local and regional firms offer their lawyers significant arbitration work. Candidates at leading firms in the UK should not frown at the opportunity to join the regional firms in the UAE, Qatar or Oman. Not only do they have their own arbitration offering, many of them also have work referred to them from international firms due to their expertise in local law and litigation, whether it be Qatari, Omani or Emirati Civil Code. 

The financial benefits

It is well documented that a move to the Middle East can significantly improve your bank balance because of the tax free salary. It is true that the salaries and expat packages in private practice are not the same as 10 years ago but that is not to say someone working in London at a leading city practice/international firm cannot go to the Middle East and reap the financial benefits.

The costs of living in Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are generally similar, although Dubai is slightly more expensive out of the three, Muscat is much less expensive. Those in Muscat should expect a slightly lower salary that those in than those in Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. One thing to note is due to the nature of Dubai, the expenditure of those living there is generally higher than those based in Doha or Abu Dhabi. 

Rent on average is cheaper in Dubai than in London, but for those looking to live in a luxury apartment may find themselves paying a little more. A lawyer working in London, who is renting their accommodation and working at a national firm can find themselves £15-25,000 per year better off by making the move to the UAE, Qatar or Oman. 

Alternates to the UAE

However, the UAE is not the only option available to Lawyers. I have recruited extensively for Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia in recent months. Looking at Qatar, it has always been a leading location for construction lawyers and professionals. The awarding of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has resulted in a significant increase of construction projects in the country, the obvious requirement for football stadiums, then the follow on effect to upgrade of their infrastructure to help support the influx of activity associated with hosting a world cup. 

Alongside that, Qatar is somewhere that has gained a certain amount of negative press in the past few months because of its political tensions with its neighbors. Yes, it has always been a more conservative place than the UAE but the big concern for candidates is the effect of day-to-day lives. The short answer is that very little has changed. One major hiccup is that travelling to the UAE now requires a stop in Oman but other than that, our contacts in Qatar have not seen a major change in their daily lives.

Looking at this from the standpoint of the construction lawyer, there is still a great demand for them to be in Qatar. Yes, there are arguments that the attractiveness of having an office in Qatar has declined over the past couple of years, International firms such as Clifford Chance, Latham & Watkins and Herbert Smith Freehills have both closed their offices in Qatar. Despite this, recent news emerged that Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, one of the biggest names in international dispute resolution are opening a Doha office early next year, an office that will be headed by the highly regarded James Bremen.

In Summary, there are still plenty of opportunities for UK/Australian/US qualified lawyers to work in the Middle East, if you have any questions or wish to discuss any potential opportunities please do not hesitate in contacting myself on the following email: asajadi@leap29.com