Where in the world...spotlight on the UAE

Where in the world...spotlight on the UAE

In 2023, Group8 is starting the year on a quest - a quest to find certainty in an uncertain world, shining a light on avenues open to the top echelon of legal talent to maximise their potential. No better place to explore next than the sun-kissed United Arab Emirates, throwing a spotlight on the legal hubs of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

The UAE's resilient economy...

Strategically located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa, the UAE is the ideal hub for international trade and investment - it continues to expand and diversify its economic base from oil, gas and petrochem to real estate, finance, technology, pharma, infrastructure and renewables.

With soaring exports and tourism, and a neutral, welcoming global political stance, it’s no secret that the UAE is experiencing a continued economic boom with the region connecting seamlessly to billions of people via some of the most sophisticated airports, ports and business friendly global special economic zones (SEZ) on the planet. There are 70 SEZs across the Gulf Cooperation Council members with 47 of these in the UAE alone, with ambitious plans to see this number grow*. The UAE is creating jobs, inspiring innovation and driving economic diversification which, as we all know, are powerful enablers of economic development.

The UAE has a strong, stable and well-established government that is committed to promoting economic growth and creating a favourable business climate. Couple this with a talent shortage in the legal market across Projects, Corporate, Construction, Banking, Real Estate and Digital Economy – if you could be anywhere else in the world, is 2023 really the perfect time to relocate to Dubai or Abu Dhabi?

Museum of the Future and Emirates Towers

Legal market growth trajectory

Blessed with some of the world’s most iconic buildings (think Burj Khalifa and the Burj Al Arab) and finest beaches, the UAE is a man-made city whose story is ‘supply and they will come’. Renowned for its luxurious lifestyle, from world-class hotels and spas to high-end shopping centres and sports facilities, the country is a haven for those who appreciate the finer things in life.

It's an easy place to do business and its central location and time zone mean connecting during the working day is possible with almost every location in the world. Its buoyant legal market underscores its place as a global leader that is on a growth trajectory, contrasting starkly with what we are seeing as a softening legal market in the UK, and to a certain extent, the US. Real GDP growth is expected to hit 3.9% in 2023 and 4.3% in 2024 compared to a 7.6% increase in 2022, outperforming many of the other major legal hubs like the UK (predicted to contract in 2023), EU (0.1% in Germany for 2023) and US (1.4% 2023)**. This relatively young region boasts over 60 of the top international, magic circle and US firms who operate in a rapidly changing legal market, offering a multi-cultural, dynamic challenge for lawyers compared to working in the more well-established legal markets like London or Asia.

Suffice to say, the UAE is a very attractive proposition for lawyers at all levels, with cutting edge legal work, growing clients in a market which is experiencing significant M&A activity supported by relatively small legal teams (compared to London and Sydney for example) so you can expect to get great access to those deals and clients.

Marhaba: say "hello" to the UAE

Home to some of the most stunning and picturesque beaches in the world. From the pristine white sands of the Abu Dhabi Corniche to the crystal-clear waters of Jumeirah Beach in Dubai, and a drive away to the beaches or take a road-trip and explore Dibba, there is a beach to suit everyone’s taste and preferences – perfect to unwind after a busy week at the office.

Ain Dubai

Jumeirah beach is one of the most popular in the UAE with a lively atmosphere and a popular spot for water sports, such as jet-skiing, paddle-boarding and windsurfing with lots of beach clubs and restaurants.

Abu Dhabi Corniche is a 7km long beach located in the heart of the city with stunning views of the Arabian Gulf and a popular spot for families, with several parks, picnic areas and playgrounds. And it is a great place to enjoy a leisurely walk or bike ride, as it has a dedicated pathway that runs along the beachfront.

For a more secluded beach experience away from the hustle & bustle, the Ras Al Khaimah region of the UAE is beautiful and quieter (about a 90-minute drive away) and has plenty to offer from Al Hamra Beach, Al Marjan Island Beach and the beaches of the Al Wadi resort (and a major duty free stop for booze!).

The UAE is calling...

The Projects, Corporate, Banking & Finance, Real Estate and Digital Economy teams across the top 15 law firms in the region are seeing unprecedented demand driven by the fact that the market has grown quicker than its talent base has. While the UAE won’t be immune from world shocks, it is expected to be more resilient and growth in Saudi Arabia is also being supported still largely by legal teams across the UAE (this is changing though and new laws introduced may in a few years’ time mean less ME regional work on this front). Clients are demanding more sophisticated, repeat support and firms are delivering.

While most opportunities sit at the 3-7 years’ PQE level, we are seeing exceptional opportunities for senior lawyers and counsel and if you back yourself in a busy market to make a name for yourself, in some firms growing at a rapid pace, partnership may not be just a pipedream.

So, in summary, the UAE offers a range of benefits that make it a very attractive destination for lawyers who are looking to further their careers and enjoy a high standard of living. With its strong economy, world-class infrastructure, and significant tax benefits, it is no wonder that so many professionals are choosing to make the UAE their home away from home. The cost of living has hit the UAE too but there’s not a lot about your life in a western country that you’d need to adjust or compromise on these days. With more pub and bar life than most people’s home cities, your social life will likely pick up a notch but with many groceries still imported from overseas, you can expect a decent Carrefour or Spinneys bill. Rents are on the up but you can still secure a great apartment or villa with access to health facilities (either in your own backyard or in a complex) for a reasonable amount.

And did we mention the tax benefits? We left it until last but it still is one of the biggest motivators behind why people make the move to the region.

#lawyers #lawyersoflinkedin #lawpractice #thegreatmigration #globalcitizen

James Mills | Lead Consultant - International Legal Division at Group8 Global

Contact me to learn more and to receive a copy of our UAE Legal Market Report. Email: james@groupeightglobal.com


*'SEZs are driving the industrial boom in the UAE and GCC', dated 31 October 2022 and written by Mohammed Al Mutawa, Khaleek Times - available here

And PwC, 'Re-birth of Special Economic Zones in the GCC' - available here

**'UAE Outlook: Growth moderating in 2023', dated 26 January 2023 and written by Daniel Richards (MENA Economist), Emirates NBD Research - available here

And 'Mapped: GDP Growth Forecasts by Country, in 2023' - available here