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Legal market overview

While uncertainty over the low oil price is generally tempering activity in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is being powered by its position as a business hub for the region. Dubai’s successful bid for Expo 2020 led to the UAE government budgeting $8bn worth of new projects, and further growth is being driven by new real estate and tourism investment. Moreover, the government has set ambitious renewable energy targets for 2020, which could see more than $50bn worth of investment made in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) solar power sector. Construction and property remain the main drivers of the UAE economy, with the hotel and leisure sector particularly fruitful.

There has been a robust period of inbound, outbound and regional M&A activity, with numerous transactions being driven by private equity investment in sectors such as hospitals and education. More companies have expanded their business operations through leveraged finance in the region, which is a growing trend. One significant example of this was Etisalat raising $4.3bn through the region’s largest corporate bond sale to fund the bulk of its $5.7bn purchase of a majority stake in Morocco’s Maroc Telecom from Vivendi.

Islamic finance also continues to flourish, with the global sukuk market continuing to grow and a number of new participants including sovereigns such as the Government of the Hong Kong SAR, as well as the governments of the UK, Luxembourg and South Africa.

For law firms operating in the region, the UAE market remains intensely competitive, with significant pressure on fees; as a result, some firms have retrenched during the year. 2014/15 saw the exit from Abu Dhabi of a number of leading law firms, including Latham & Watkins LLP, Herbert Smith Freehills LLP, and Baker Botts L.L.P. and, most recently, Simmons & Simmons Midle East LLP, all on the pretext of shifting their focus to Dubai. In reality, work emanating from the government institutions based in Abu Dhabi remains tightly controlled.

The Dubai International Financial Centre – the UAE federal financial free zone in Dubai – continues to attract business, with most law firms believing an office base there is a prerequisite of successful practice. Furthermore, the DIFC has its own courts and the jurisdiction is increasing its caseload, albeit the main forum for litigation in the UAE remains the local court system.

Law House Advocates and Legal Consultants

Established in 2007, Law House is a full-service law firm advising and supporting local, regional and international corporations, financial institutions and individual clients in the UAE. Within the Middle East, Law House is strategically positioned in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and is connected to a network of correspondent offices in the GCC, Europe, Asia and USA. Other than a wide experience in local customs, laws, regulations and practices, the firm’s highly qualified teams of lawyers are also experienced in several international jurisdictions, equipped with global knowledge and skill-sets to best serve clients.

Firms in the spotlight

Al Safar and Partners Advocates and Legal Consultants

Al Safar & Partners advocates & legal consultants was established in 1981 by advocate Mahdi Al Safar and has completed 33 years among the best of UAE’s law firms. The firm provides general legal advice to its clients. In the year 2008 senior advocate Ms Kavitha Panicker, managing partner of the firm, undertook the mission of growing the firm to its current status and the setting up of operational processes for quality management...

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  • Lower VAT On Hotel Services In Montenegro

    An important piece of regulation has been introduced in Montenegro recently, through the reduction of VAT on catering services in four stars hotels (in the north of the country) and five-star hotels (on the seaside), which will be effective from 2018. According to media reports, Olivera Brajović, General Director of Tourism Development and Standards in the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism, pointed out that these reduced tax rates on services of preparing and serving food and drinks are expected to raise the overall competitiveness in the hospitality sector, while at the same time contribute to the combat against grey economy.
  • Karanović & Nikolić Joins The NextLaw Global Referral Network

    Karanović & Nikolić is pleased to announce that it has joined the NextLaw Global Referral Network, created by global law firm Dentons. We are particularly excited by the fact that Nextlaw presents a new type of network, with a unique invitation-only approach in their selection, ensuring that all of its members have the highest quality standards and a proven track record of excellence.
  • Sweet Smell Of Success - Serbian Sugar Industry Consolidates Its Forces

    After more than a four months and a Phase II (in-depth) investigation, the Competition Commission gave conditional approval, to Sunoko's acquisition of the Star Šećer company and its subsidiary Te-To - the owner of the sugar factory in Senta. No divestments have been required from Sunoko.
  • New Bridge Over Danube To Be Built In Belgrade

    News reports are informing us that Belgrade will gain another bridge over the Danube river in the near future – this one at the Ada Huja island and over three kilometres long.
  • Nikola Tesla Airport To Acquire Sava Centar?

    Media outlets have recently been reporting on the possibility that Nikola Tesla Airport will acquire Sava Centar (SC), with the purpose of turning it into its company headquarters. This acquisition would be followed by an investment of over EUR 30 million in the next three years for the building's reconstruction and adaptation. Such a decision would result in Sava Centar changing its name to "Congress Centre Nikola Tesla Airport", with an expanded array of facilities, including a tower, a shopping mall, and a hotel. The funds for the investment in question will be hailing from the Airport's own assets.
  • Too Big To Hide – European Commission Sanctions Truck Cartel

    Global competition law circles have recently been shaken by the European Commission's record-setting fine of EUR 2.93 billion for collusion on the automotive market, imposed against Volvo, Daimler, Iveco and DAF trucks. The sanctions in question varied amongst the accused parties, with Daimler facing the largest penalty in the amount of more than EUR 1 billion on its own. Iveco's fine was set at EUR 494 million, DAF's at EUR 752 million, and Volvo's fine has been set at EUR 670 million.
  • Cartel Office ensures greater competition in rail sector

    The German railway company Deutsche Bahn must allow for more competition. The Bundeskartellamt, Germany’s Federal Cartel Office, found that the company had abused its dominant market position with respect to the sale of rail tickets.

    Eterna Law (representative office in Almaty) announces the beginning of co-operation as a legal adviser with the Public Association "Academy of Preventive Medicine of Kazakhstan."
  • LAG Sachsen-Anhalt on video surveillance at the workplace

    Video surveillance at the workplace does not inevitably give rise to claims for damages. That was the verdict of the Landesarbeitsgericht (LAG) Sachsen-Anhalt [Regional Labour Court of Saxony-Anhalt] (Az.: 6 Sa 301/14).
  • Final stretch for loan withdrawal

    Those who still want to withdraw from real estate loans concluded between 2002 and 2010 should take action now while the right of withdrawal is on its last legs. This get-out-of-jail-free card is set to lapse shortly.