In 2016, law firms in the UAE expressed caution with a reluctance to replace existing positions, however, Q4 2016 brought a new optimism that has carried forward into 2017. Firms are now replacing lost talent from 2016 and are able to justify the growth of their existing teams. We have seen growth demonstrated in the requirement for top-end dispute resolution professionals, specifically within litigation, and not surprisingly in the construction sector given the rate of development in the UAE. This is not only due to movement between firms, but also expansion in existing teams. Additionally, we have found significant growth in corporate departments, across all levels of PQE, specifically for common law qualified candidates. Despite banking and finance experiencing slow growth as an industry last year, many firms are beginning to add to these teams; a positive indication of increased confidence in local banking and finance markets.
Legal departments in industry have experienced less movement in the past year, however, we expect that to change by Q2/Q3, given that we are beginning to see ripples in the market amongst senior counsel and director level candidates who are now looking at a career move.
Despite growth in the UAE legal market over the years, the trend of hiring directly from the UK looks set to stay. This is mainly because firms are not able to match the package expectations of existing residents and those transferring directly from UK offices in the case of international firms. Local firms are also experiencing expansion, with fewer hiring freezes and an increase in sourcing candidates directly from the UK, in order to bring in international talent and expertise.
On the legal support side, there has always been a need for outstanding bilingual paralegals and that continues to be a demand moving forward. There is a general shortage of corporate paralegals with experience at international firms and, whilst we acknowledge an increase in UK candidates relocating to the UAE, demand still heavily outweighs the supply. On the whole, the legal market remains a candidate driven industry, where there is still an increasing requirement for qualified professionals in the UAE market; we expect this to continue throughout the year and past Expo 2020.
SALARY & COMPENSATION TRENDS
With the continued increase in demand for qualified international candidates, salaries in the legal industry are set to increase between 3-4% in 2017, with the expectation that recently relocated expatriates can command a significant salary hike if they’re looking to move to another firm in 2017.
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