What is it like to work for a Dubai Legal firm coming from the UK? Taking a comparative look at two vibrant legal markets and evaluating the pros and cons of each.
Being based in Dubai, we at Cooper Fitch are witness to both the positives and negatives of living in the UAE. The region offers opportunities across all professions with unlimited sunshine and entertainment, and the added benefit of earning a tax-free salary. Despite the limited growth and slight downsizing in late 2015 and early 2016, the market is now growing again and the legal industry is, yet again, hungry for top legal talent.
We wanted to explore the key questions from our candidates interested in relocating to the region, and address reasons for and against a move to the UAE.
Without a doubt, the salaries of UAE firms are considerably higher than in the UK. Even when advising our candidates on the (generally) higher cost of living, salaries still significantly supersede UK incomes. This is throughout all levels PQE. Tax-free packages and a luxury lifestyle are often enough to entice legal professionals to the region, specifically with the comfort of saving considerably, as well as enjoying the lifestyle.
Please refer to our salary guide for further details on specific figures.
At each level of qualification, candidates can expect opportunities for career progression, however, there are limits. Training contracts at International firms are less common than in the UK and rarely entertained by local/regional firms. Similarly, NQs may find it more challenging to obtain work in the region. Junior to mid level Associates will be best placed in relocating with progression in mind, however mid-size to larger firms are growing Senior Associates to Partner level. Aligned with the UK, candidates do leave for career progression, however, are usually more motivated by salary hikes, firm reputation and change in environment.
Scope and Quality of Work
There are significant opportunities to be involved in large-scale projects with renowned local and international clients, across all disciplines. Areas for growth that we foresee are within Dispute Resolution, Corporate and Banking and Finance, however, with the diversity of firms in the region, there are requirements across most specialists and industries. Dubai is considered a hub for private practice in the Middle East, however, opportunities do exist in the surrounding GCC region.
Similar to the UK, firms in the UAE are always open to top talent. Whilst the market is affluent, there is a talent gap for high-quality candidates. Due to this, many firms are happy to source candidates internationally and relocate. UK firms express a strict preference for common law qualified candidates, due to the nature of their work, whilst regional firms will employ candidates from within the UAE or surrounding GCC, specifically for their regional expertise and Arabic language skills, required for Associates working specifically within Litigation. With experience at a reputable International firm and a stable profile, there are generally opportunities of significant calibre in the UAE.
The Effects of Working in the UAE on Your Profile
The UAE is considered a hub for the Middle East and this translates to the legal industry. With multiple International firms well established in the GCC region, and growing, there are few disparities in the quality and demand of work in the region versus the UK.
Legal professionals are exposed to global clients and projects, as they would be in the UK, therefore any assumption that a break in UK employment can be viewed negatively, may be considered redundant. In fact, working in the UAE can diversify experience; present the opportunity to work on large projects, with exposure to multiple markets in the surrounding region, as well as internationally. Multiple UK firms will also offer a transfer to their UK office, in line with availability, should candidates wish to return to the UK after some time spent within the region.
Overall, working in the UAE can still offer the same high quality of work to rival London or elsewhere in the UK, and can afford the opportunity to work in a multicultural environment where there is still scope for progression.
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