Middle East law firms – market and salary review

June 12, 2015

Introduction

We are delighted to present our market review of the Middle East private practice sector. Taylor Root has been operating in the region for almost 20 years and opened our Dubai based office in October 2007. Taylor Root recognises that the Middle East is a unique and individual market and we aim to provide as accurate and current information as possible in regards to salaries and recruitment trends as part of our service to clients and candidates in the region.

Market Overview

The Middle East recruitment market continues to be an attractive location for international lawyers, offering superb career opportunities within law firms. It is fast paced, exciting and continues to attract global organisations to the region. It offers lawyers cutting-edge legal work, great client contact, relatively small but high-quality teams and impressive salary packages.

Most international law firms are staffed by predominantly expatriate lawyers and English is very much the language of business in the region. Arabic speaking lawyers are also, naturally, relatively widespread in both international and locally based law firms.

The region has been slightly more subdued over the last couple of years but an upward movement in the market is expected in 2018 as the region grows and matures following the stabilisation of oil prices. The majority of law firms are full service and will carry out corporate, finance, projects/construction, real estate and litigation/arbitration work across their regional offices in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

Where?

The legal market is still very much led by Dubai, and many firms and companies still utilise Dubai as their main Middle East base given its liberal regime, world class infrastructure and excellent facilities for expatriate life.

Other locations such as Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have the potential to grow off the back of their natural reserve revenues and also provide excellent opportunities for lawyers looking for a less developed market. Offices and teams tend to be much smaller but still offer excellent career opportunities.

Economic growth figures for the region are some of the most positive in the world, with predictions of further progress. The outlook for the region seems bright as several developing countries mature.

Lifestyle

The Middle East is developing into an all-round lifestyle location with Dubai very much at the forefront of the attractions, so much so that it is now a holiday destination for many people around the world. The region is now host to a vast array of sports clubs and events such as Dubai Sevens, Race to Dubai World Championship Golf, ATP Tennis tournaments, World Swimming Championships and Formula 1 Grand Prix amongst others. Alongside this there are great beaches and hotels, some of the best shopping malls in the world and an array of bars and restaurants; there is plenty on offer for singles or families alike.

The climate is excellent for the majority of the year and wall to wall air conditioning make the hot summers bearable, whatever activity you wish to take part in. If you wish to take a break, the Middle East is an excellent transport hub, being located in between Europe, Africa and Asia, making them all very reachable within a few hours.

The rewards

The Middle East is a zero-income tax region and therefore is seen as a particularly attractive option considering that salaries are in line, or slightly above, London rates but are not taxed.

Salaries are generally paid in lump sum and the “expat package” splitting up salary, housing and other costs rarely exists nowadays. Housing costs are now very competitive with other major jurisdictions, with high quality new villas and apartments available.

The salaries

Magic Circle
PQE LevelMinimum (in Dhs)Maximum (in Dhs)
NQ380,000425,000
1-3 PQE440,000590,000
4-7 PQE620,000         800,000
8-10 PQE800,000+800,000+
International Firms
PQE LevelMinimum (in Dhs)Maximum (in Dhs)
NQ360,000410,000
1-3 PQE400,000560,000
4-7 PQE540,000750,000
8-10 PQE720,000+750,000+
UAE Local Firms
PQE LevelMinimum (in Dhs)Maximum (in Dhs)
NQ240,000310,000
1-3 PQE300,000420,000
4-7 PQE450,000700,000
8-10 PQE550,000800,000
US Firms
PQE LevelMinimum (in Dhs)Maximum (in Dhs)
NQ350,000550,000
1-3 PQE400,000680,000
4-7 PQE600,000970,000
8-10 PQE800,000+800,000+

Remuneration

Benefits and Bonuses

Mandatory benefits such as private medical insurance are standard but old school package fillers such as education and car allowances rarely exist. Bonuses across the board remain discretionary and our intelligence suggests that there is no distinctive pattern, other than they are offered by the majority of organisations in the region.

Candidate Pool

The Middle East is a cosmopolitan region and this is reflected in the diversity of the local legal population. As regional experience becomes more important, hiring managers are often prepared to pay a premium to those already established in the market. However, in a good market there still remain plenty of opportunities for those who are based outside of the UAE. With expats now able to buy property in a number of locations and with high standards of education and healthcare, a move to the region is no longer a ‘pit stop’, but often a long-term move.

Jobs

  • Law firm

Islamic Finance – Associate/Senior Associate

Stellar opportunity to join a team and Partner behind many of the world’s pioneering and ground breaking Islamic finance transactions. The team advises on a very wide range of Islamic financial services and products. This role would suit a common law qualified lawyer looking to develop their career in the Middle East. Your experience to […]
  • Salary £150000 – £200000 per annum + tax free salary plus relocation, bonus
  • Posted Posted 4 weeks ago
  • Law firm

TMT Associate/Senior Associate

This team is focused on emerging and disruptive technologies (cryptocurrencies, Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence etc), e-Commerce, complex strategic sourcing and procurement system integration projects, Infratech and Smart City projects, digital transformation projects, telecoms and IT advisory as well as cross jurisdictional data privacy and protection advice. If this sounds of interest, please do get in touch. […]
  • Salary £120000 – £180000 per annum + tax free salary plus relocation, bonus
  • Posted Posted 4 weeks ago
  • Law firm

Corporate Associate/Senior Associate (4-6 PQE)

This team advises on high-profile private equity, joint venture and M&A transactions throughout the Middle East, Europe and beyond. They are looking for a top-class Mid-Senior Associate (circa 4-6 PQE) to join their Dubai practice. Those based in the region would be preferable however, they are happy to relocate strong lawyers from the UK, Australia […]
  • Salary £140000 – £170000 per annum + tax free salary plus bonus, pension etc
  • Posted Posted 1 month ago

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