You may not remember the heady days of the early 2000s when law firms in the UAE were screaming for high quality expat associate talent, but believe it or not, those days are returning, just within a more mature and developed legal framework.
During the early 2000s boom, the UAE represented a tax-free, low cost jurisdiction where expat skills were heavily in demand to service the extreme business activity coming out of sky-high oil prices and a desire to become an international, cosmopolitan region. Practices in infrastructure, oil & gas and real estate were growing at a hurtling pace to keep up with the deals being done. Expats were being offered large tax-free salaries, along with housing and school allowances and individuals had good leverage to extract generous packages.
Fast forward to 2019 and although the legal landscape has developed greatly, expat lawyers are still a very attractive option for many firms. Generous tax-free salaries and large tax-free bonuses remain on offer and expat lawyers with international training and deal experience are still highly coveted, even though previously lacking skills are now available on the ground.
Firms in the UAE are offering associates a stronger platform from which to quickly advance their own careers. Associates in the region work closely with partners on a diverse portfolio of matters, resulting in a much broader, more in-depth experience. Top-tier international firms are also more accessible in the UAE than in London making the UAE a great stepping stone for gaining entry into otherwise impenetrable walls and this can then be utilised within the region, back in London or elsewhere.
In terms of partnership, teams in the region are better at recognising the lawyers who are really driving practices forward and therefore partnership is far more tangible. For those wanting to make their mark, the UAE offers the canvas to do just that.
When it comes to deals, the region, in particular Dubai and Abu Dhabi, now has firms with decades of expertise and the ability and drive to deliver on complex, high-value, ground-breaking deals. The development of financial markets (such as the NASDAQ Dubai) provide sophisticated platforms so that large deals can be efficiently executed. The market is so developed that the legal skills now needed include high value M&A, investigations and white-collar crime, and fintech as well as more traditional areas.
Furthermore, most of the firms in the region are no longer satellite offices just servicing work from their larger offices. Now they are generating their own work and are very profitable in their own right. Teams are growing and ambitious, well trained and high calibre associates are needed to support this growth and can command a competitive salary in return.
As well as career opportunity, the UAE has plenty to offer in the way of lifestyle. Dubai in particular is seen as a cosmopolitan and attractive city in which to base yourself. For those who see Dubai as just sun, sea and high-rise structures, there is also a burgeoning arts scene, a new opera house, galleries within the old city walls and something to suit every taste. Abu Dhabi now has the Louvre and is becoming the arts and cultural capital of the Middle East. The whole region is thriving, creating a unique melting pot of modern endeavours and traditional pursuits.
The region still offers fully tax-free salaries and bonuses and therefore earning potential is sky high. Salaries and bonuses in the region are comparable to those in London and coupled with the lack of any income tax means you can live a very comfortable lifestyle whilst still saving significant amounts of money, something which is tough in the UK.
The UAE backdrop now offers a platform from where you can do high quality and innovative work, an appealing lifestyle (aided by year-round sun and the lack of commute!) and the ability to enjoy the benefits of the region whilst also saving large sums for wherever life may take you in the future.
The UAE does represent the Arabian dream and so much more.
For more information or to discuss more about living and working in the Middle East please contact:
+971 (0)4 401 9226
Mob (UAE): +971 (0)5 217 4782 4