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Legal Market Overview

The elite advocacy skills of the English Bar places them in great demand for international arbitration work, and the Middle East is no exception. Of late, a number of barristers have placed a focus on the Middle East in their practice. Indeed, due to the global distribution of megaprojects, success at the English construction Bar requires an an international outlook as the heavyweight disputes justifying the most eminent counsel and the largest teams are mostly elsewhere.

Commercial disputes also have a second choice of forum, in a number of free zones court systems. Pioneered by the Dubai International Financial Centre in the UAE, these are typically geographically-concentrated areas in which business activity is subjected to its own, English-based legal system presided over by experienced common law judges, many of whom had distinguished careers in England. This, coupled with a welcoming tax situation, has contributed to Dubai’s role as the key financial hub for the Middle East and as a popular venue for litigation, indeed to the extent that case law has been required to deal with questions on the demarcation of the DIFC Court’s powers over activities and assets outside the DIFC area and subject the Arabic-language “onshore” courts. The Abu Dhabi Global Market is an equally sophisticated alternative to the DIFC, 150km away, and indeed gets particular praise for its service; its legal system has been constructed in a way to avoid its use as a “conduit jurisdiction”. Away from the UAE, Qatar has a similar mechanism through the Qatar Financial Centre’s Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre.