The English Bar has become increasingly active across the Middle East, with a number of barristers focusing their practice on the region. This has been accelerated with the continued financial growth and global distribution of megaprojects in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, allowing English barristers to take their hand in heavyweight disputes requiring international outlook and expertise.
A significant proportion of this work stems from disputes arising from major construction and infrastructure projects, with Saudi Arabia being a particularly buoyant market in recent years. Major driving forces behind the demand for English barristers across the GCC include infrastructure projects connected to the 2022 FIFA World Cup hosted in Qatar, as well as projects connected to Saudi Vision 2030, including the NEOM mega-project including the proposed The Line linear city. Beyond this, other prolific sectors seeing lots of activity include education, health care, hospitality, commercial, and real estate developments.
The commercial Bar continues to see a high level of activity across the Middle East in a number of free zone court systems, which are geographically concentrated areas that utilise their own, English-based common law system. In the UAE, Dubai is recognised as a key financial hub for the Middle East, with the Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC) acting as an established forum for commercial matters and proceedings. Similarly, the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) has been gaining traction as a popular alternative and operates on a similar basis, where unlike the Arabic-language ‘onshore’ courts, the DIFC and ADGM courts’ proceedings are held in English. Broadening away from the UAE, the Qatar Financial Centre’s Qatar International Court operates along similar lines, and is also a key forum in the Middle East that sees substantial activity from English barristers.