UAE (Dubai) International Trade in Legal Services

United Arab Emirates (Dubai) International Trade in Legal Services


Is there legislation governing the legal sector

Federal Law no. 23 on the Regulation of the Legal Profession (16 December 1991) and Executive Council Resolution no.22 of 2011

Under what title do lawyers practise?

Lawyers in Dubai practise under the two regulated titles: 'Advocate' and 'Legal Consultant

How does an individual lawyer obtain a "licence" to practise law? How often must this be renewed?

The conditions governing the licensing of advocates are laid down in the Federal Law on the Regulation of the Profession. According to article 4 of the Federal law, no one is entitled to practise as an advocate in the State unless his name is registered on the role of practising lawyers with the Ministry of Justice.  In order to be registered, an advocate must fulfil the following conditions:  1. Be a national of the United Arab Emirates States; 2. Be at least twenty one years old; 3. Hold full civil capacity, with good character and reputation, and not have been subject to any criminal or disciplinary sentence arising from a breach of honour or trust; 4. Hold a license in Law or Islamic Law from an accredited university or higher institute in the State or an equivalent qualification; 5. Have undertaken the required training period.   Since 2011, Dubai has also required individual lawyers to be registered with the Department of Legal Affairs(LAD) to provide legal services outside the courts and the forms provided by the LAD set out the information which must be supplied by the applicant. 

Does this entitle the holder to practise throughout the country? If the law license only permits one to practice on a sub-national level, please explain the jurisdictional limits

UAE lawyers are entitled to practise throughout the country but according to article 4 of the Federal law, any individual Emirate may make it a condition that a lawyer must have an office there in order to practise in that Emirate. Dubai requires law firms to obtain a licence from the Department of Legal Affairs and, in addition, to undergo the necessary formalities with the Department of Economic Development.

Are there certain activities that are "reserved" to those who are licensed to practise law in the jurisdiction?

The provision of legal services is restricted to advocates and legal consultants and to licensed entities.  In accordance with the Federal Law, only registered advocates may plead before the Federal Supreme Court and conduct litigation.  Executive Council Resolution no.22 of 2011 introduced a new licensing scheme for individual lawyers in Dubai who are providing legal consultancy services outside of the courts. Legal Consultancy is defined as the provision of 'all legal services to the public apart except for pleading and representation of third parties before Dubai courts'.

Do you need to hold local nationality to be eligible to practise law?

Practising law in the courts is reserved by Federal Law no.23 to UAE nationals.

What legal forms can lawyers work in? (e.g. self employment, partnership, limited liability partnership, multi-disciplinary partnership, incorporation)

UAE lawyers in Dubai may operate as sole practitioners, or work in partnerships or form a civil company.

What other ethical or regulatory requirements must a licensed lawyer comply with? 

The Federal Law contains some basic ethical provisions that a lawyer must comply with, such as client relations, a prohibition on conditional and contingency fees, conflicts and confidentiality. The Department of Legal Affairs is currently considering the introduction of a code of conduct and mandatory continuing legal education for legal consultants

Do law firms need to receive a "license" (or permission/approval) to practice law?

Law firms must obtain a licence from the Department of Legal Affairs and fulfil the necessary commercial formalities with the Department of Economic Development.

Which authority issues licences? Are there different authorities for individuals and firms? 

The Department of Legal Affairs is responsible for the registration of individual lawyers (advocates and legal consultants) and for the licensing of law firms. 



Are there any explicit rules or restrictions other than visas on fly in fly out practice of law? Ie. Do you need to obtain a licence for temporary practice?

A physical office is required for the practice of law in Dubai.

Can a foreign lawyer obtain a visa to visit clients or to market but not to practice?

Business visas are available for 30 day visits but are not required for some nationalities (e.g. USA, UK, Australian)

Can a foreign lawyer obtain a licence to establish and practise as a foreign legal consultant and what is the scope of this limited licence?

Foreign lawyers may obtain licences to practice as legal consultants and may practice any area of law outside of appearing in court..

Are there any conditions that must be fulfilled once a foreign lawyer has been granted a limited licence (e.g. residency requirement)

A foreign legal consultant must be resident in Dubai.

Are there any conditions that must be fulfilled for a foreign lawyer to qualify for a limited licence? (e.g. prior practice)

There are detailed licence conditions which include prior practice

Are foreign lawyers permitted to undertake arbitration and mediation?

There are no restrictions on the participation of foreign lawyers in arbitration and mediation proceedings 

Are foreign lawyers allowed to appear in court under any circumstances?

Lawyers from other Arab countries may take part in pleading particular cases before the UAE courts if they are employed in the office of an Emirati lawyer with an office in Dubai and provided reciprocal conditions apply in the lawyer's home jurisdiction.

Can foreign lawyers requalify as local lawyers?


As an exception to the nationality requirement, a non-UAE national may qualify to practise the legal profession in the UAE if, in addition to  fulfilling the age, civil capacity and character requirements, he fulfils the following conditions :
a - He must have worked in the legal profession or the judicial field for a period of fifteen years at least .
b - He must be a legal resident of the State .
c - He must practice the profession through a Bureau of a national lawyer registered in the Roll of Practicing Lawyers. 


Can a foreign law firm obtain a licence to open an office?

Foreign law firms may either obtain licences to practice within the jurisdiction of the DIFC or in Dubai

Even if a foreign law firm does not require a legal licence must they register in some form in order to set up an office? (e.g. with a ministry of company affairs etc)

All foreign law firms must complete the commercial registration requirements with the Ministry of Economic Development, regardless of whether their licence  to practice legal consultancy is issued by the DIFC or Ministry of Justice.

Are there different types of foreign law firm 'licence'  (e.g. Joint Law Venture, stand alone foreign licence etc)

Foreign law firms may take the form of civil companies (special professional firms), limited liability companies, joint ventures or commercial companies. The general partnership structure is only available to UAE nationals. If a foreign firm adopts the civil company structure, it must appoint a local service agent. The local service agent must be a UAE national, who does not need to have a direct involvement in the business but who should be paid a lump sum and/or percentage of profits or turnover. The role of the local service agent is to assist in obtaining licences, visas, labour cards etc.

Is there a quota on the number of licences available?

There is no quota for foreign law firms

Are there geographical restrictions on foreign firm licences or on the number of branches a foreign firm can have?

Each Emirate has its own licensing procedures. Most foreign law firms are located in Dubai or Abu Dhabi and a few are present in Sharjah.

Are there "scope of practice" rules that apply directly to foreign law firms (as opposed to lawyers themselves)? (e.g. home, host, international law), if so, what are they? Foreign  law firms established in Dubai may practise the law of the jurisdictions in which their lawyers are qualified), international law and UAE law outside of the courts. Firms established in the DIFC may practise international law and the law of any jurisdiction in which their lawyers are qualified.
Are there restrictions on the corporate form a foreign law firm can take? The only restriction on corporate form is that foreign law firms may not form general or limited liability partnerships in Dubai.
Are there rules about the name a foreign law firm can take? Law firms must check the availability of names they propose to trade under with the Department of Economic Development. 
What entity grants a 'license' to a foreign law firm? If that entity is on the Internet, please provide the URL Foreign law firms must obtain a licence from the Department of Legal Affairs and complete registration procedures to set up the required company vehicle with the Dubai Department of Economic Development. Law firms who are based in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) will in addition need to register as an Ancillary Service Provider with the Dubai Financial Services Authority. See: http://www.dubaided.gov.ae/English/reglcening/lglbus/default and www.dfsa.ae


Are there restrictions on the ownership share of foreign lawyers in a law firm?

Foreign firms may own 100% of law firms established as ancillary service providers in the DFSA or as civil companies with the Legal Affairs Department. If they wish to establish in the Dubai jurisdiction in a form other than as a civil (professional) company then, following the Commercial Companies Law No. (8) of 1984,  they must have a UAE national partner or partners who will hold not less than 51 percent of the firm's ownership.

May a domestic lawyer be employed by a foreign lawyer or law firm?

Registered lawyers and legal consultants can only be employed or work from the offices of lawyers who are registered as advocates or legal consultants with the Legal Affairs Department.

Can a domestic lawyer enter into partnership with a foreign lawyer?

UAE lawyers may be partners in law firms with foreign lawyers however the commercial forms of general and limited liability partnership are restricted to UAE nationals only. 

Can a domestic lawyer or domestic law firm employ a foreign lawyer?

There are no restrictions on the employment of foreign lawyers by domestic lawyers or law firms.



Other useful sources or comments or links

For Dubai Legislation: www.elaws.gov.ae     For the Government of Dubai: www.dubai.ae