Following a booming 2018 for legal recruitment, 2019 continues to present an abundance of opportunities for associates to explore the market.
All firms across the board, US, UK, International and local/regional law firms are growing steadily and seeking high-calibre, ambitious associates who are keen to work in a constantly evolving region that presents innovative and exciting legal challenges.
Traditionally, the busiest practice areas for recruitment in the UAE have been disputes (in particular construction related disputes), projects, energy and infrastructure, corporate and banking & finance. Newer practice areas are now emerging such as white-collar crime and investigations, fintech and TMT.
What areas in the region are showing substantial demand and opportunity for associates?
White-Collar Crime and Investigations
Investigations work is becoming more prevalent in the region. With businesses being spread all over the world and the Middle East operating as a key jurisdiction, coupled with an ever more regulated market, businesses with operations in the region are finding themselves subject to increased regulatory scrutiny.
This practice area has seen real investment from firms who are seeking to bring top-tier investigations and white-collar experienced candidates to the region. The majority of these hires are being made from either the London, Paris or US markets as these jurisdictions have been dealing with investigations work for decades.
Most investigations work has a cross-border element so practising in the region means working extensively with the firm’s other offices. This is great for building a profile and feeling embedded in a firm’s worldwide network and especially useful for those individuals who want a specialism which can be practiced worldwide.
Projects, Energy & Infrastructure
The UAE is known for its projects, energy and infrastructure work and it continues to be one of the busiest practice areas.
Firms are working on matters within the UAE but are also advising heavily on matters in Oman, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, India and more so in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia’s vision for 2030 whereby it will reduce its reliance on oil and diversify its economy, means upgraded national infrastructure is a priority. Furthermore, with China’s belt and road initiative, a significant increase in projects, energy and infrastructure work with Chinese investment has already been seen, with more to come in the future. Africa is also driving large projects mandates in particular in the natural resources sector and the majority of the advice on this is being provided from the UAE.
Within the energy sector, renewables experience is particularly sought after as there is an increasing need to develop alternative and sustainable energy sources. Sustainable developments like Masdar City and solar power plants such as Noor Abu Dhabi show the region’s commitment to long-term sustainability and this aim is generating fantastic opportunities for associates to work on some of the world’s largest and most innovative projects.
Construction and Engineering Disputes
Most international law firms launched their Middle East offices with a construction and engineering disputes To this day, a strong disputes practice is usually crucial to achieving long term success in the region.
The disputes market, in particular construction and engineering disputes, is heavily dominated by arbitration which is seen as the preferred option by clients. Associates practising in construction disputes can have a hybrid practice where they not only advise on dispute resolution, but also perform an advisory role as a ‘project counsel’ on contract advice and some non-contentious issues.
Arbitrations are conducted under the rules of the ICC, SCC, LCIA, DIFC-LCIA and DIAC and sometimes UNCITRAL and other procedural rules and therefore the breadth of experience to be gained in the region is second to none.
Other practice areas in the region
Of the other main practice areas in the region, corporate continues to be a growth segment. During 2018, firms heavily invested in growing their junior to mid-level associate pool. Therefore, the beginning of 2019 has seen more recruitment activity at the senior end of the corporate market with great opportunities for senior associates and counsel candidates to move into junior partnership roles. Banking has traditionally been a buoyant sector and there is a real appetite for associates who are looking to do a varied portfolio of banking work which would usually include a mix of conventional and Islamic finance, acquisition finance, debt restructuring, emerging markets finance and real estate finance.
Fox Rodney Search
Fox Rodney Search is focused on assisting associates, partners and teams with moves into, out of and within the Middle East. Fox Rodney Search’s Dubai practice has been in the region since 2008 and has a unique and in-depth understanding of the cultural and economic realities of doing business in the Middle East.
Fox Rodney Search’s Dubai practice is part of our global office network. The strength and experience of our international team, combined with market knowledge, means we are a trusted advisor to most of the top law firms and individuals within the legal sector.
We work in close partnership with candidates, supporting them in their career journey and sharing market knowledge about the region, roles and opportunities.
If you would like to have a confidential discussion to learn more about the region, recruitment activity, salaries and all other aspects of the legal market, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or on +971 (0) 52 174 7824.