How to qualify as a lawyer in Saudi Arabia

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The Saudi legal system is based on Sharia’h or Islamic Law. The main sources of Islamic Law are the Muslim holy book, the Quran, and the Prophet Muhammad’s actions at the time of life. As for the legal profession, until recently, legal services in the Saudi were disorganised and the profession unpopular and traditional. On 15 October 2001 the Code of Legal Practice was introduced by royal decree and came into force 90 days thereafter. In general, every Saudi lawyer can represent parties in all disputes and can appear before all courts regardless of hierarchy. Courts consist of the Supreme Court, the Appellate Court, the General Courts, and the Summary Courts. The Supreme Court is the highest legal authority within the Kingdom.

Classification of lawyers

There are two types of lawyer under the Code of Legal Practice in Saudi Arabia: practicing lawyers and legal consultants. The former must be a Saudi citizen whereas the latter can be of any nationality. It must be noted that appearing before any court is a privilege reserved only for Saudi lawyers. Non-Saudi nationals cannot appear before courts as legal representatives on behalf of parties.

Academic requirements

In order to qualify as a lawyer in the Kingdom you must have

  • A Bachelor degree in Islamic Law (either in the Principles of Islamic Law or in Islamic Jurisprudence); or
  • A Bachelor degree in Law.

Both qualifications must have been obtained either from the Kingdom or from a recognised foreign academic institution, in compliance with the rules of the Saudi Ministry of Higher Education.

Practical experience requirements

A holder of a Bachelor degree, as outlined above, can become a lawyer if he/she has had practical experience in a law firm for three years. For a Master of Laws graduate this minimum practical requirement is reduced to one year. A PhD graduate, however, is exempted from any requirement for practical experience.
Equally, a former judge with at least three years of experience in Saudi Arabia is exempt from both academic and practical requirements.

Further information

Written by Khaled Benjelayel and Nima Mersadi Tabari