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UAE’s Legal Metamorphosis: Out with the Old, In with the Bold

Dubai’s legal community, brace yourselves! The winds of change are here! This blog post delves into the latest legal regulations affecting lawyers in Dubai, with a focus on how these changes impact the legal community. Let’s explore the recent changes in the UAE’s legal profession regulations.

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Federal Law 34/2022:

Starting on January 2, 2023, the legal profession in the UAE underwent significant changes with the introduction of Federal Law 34/2022, which regulates the advocacy and legal consultancy profession. This law has ushered in a series of reforms, affecting advocates, legal consultants, and in-house lawyers.

Impact on In-House Lawyers

Registration as Non-Practising Lawyers:

One of the most notable changes for in-house lawyers is the requirement to register as “non-practicing lawyers.” While the specific registration procedures and conditions will be outlined in executive regulations, in-house lawyers in Dubai will be part of the role of “non-practicing advocates” and “non-practicing legal consultants.” This registration will be renewable annually.

Changes for Advocates

Enhanced Obligations for Advocates:

Federal Law 34/2022 imposes stricter obligations on UAE advocates. These obligations include rigorous registration requirements, which encompass written exams, interviews, and medical tests, as well as the necessity to maintain professional liability insurance. Notably, advocates can now agree on contingency payments for their fees, capped at 25% of the court-awarded amount.

No Court Appearances:

Legal consultants, as before, remain prohibited from appearing in court. However, the New Laws emphasize their duties and obligations, including conflict resolution, keeping clients informed, ensuring confidentiality, returning original documents, and establishing comprehensive retainer agreements.

A New Regulatory Requirement:

A significant change is the requirement for “Visiting Legal Consultants” – individuals from outside the UAE providing legal services – to obtain permits for their services. These permits are essential for providing legal services anywhere in the UAE, including the DIFC or at licensed UAE law firms. Visiting legal consultants are granted permits for up to 30 working days per year, with the possibility of extension.

Supervision and Disciplinary Provisions

Robust Regulatory Oversight:

The New Laws introduce a professional conduct committee and a violations committee under the Dubai Legal Affairs Department (DLAD). These committees have specific procedures, including information gathering, summoning involved parties, and requesting relevant data and documents. If a violation is confirmed, penalties can range from written warnings to suspension or removal from the roll.

Commercial Activities for Lawyers

Venturing Beyond Legal Practice:

One significant shift introduced by the New Law is the possibility for lawyers to engage in commercial and investment activities. Article 42 of the New Law explicitly allows lawyers to become founders, shareholders, or partners in companies, where their liability is limited to their contributions. They can also invest in financial and real estate assets. This change opens up new avenues for legal professionals in Dubai to diversify their professional interests.

Contingency Fees for Advocates

Fee Agreements Redefined:

Under Articles 55 and 49 of the New Law, advocates can now enter into fee agreements that include contingency fees. This means that lawyers can agree to a percentage of the awarded value (judgment) as their professional fees, provided that this percentage does not exceed 25% of the awarded amount. However, these professional fees are subject to certain conditions and may only be payable if the case is recovered.

Professional Mistakes Come with Consequences:

In a noteworthy change, the New Law holds legal advisors accountable for their professional mistakes, expanding the scope of accountability beyond lawyers alone. This means that legal advisors must exercise due diligence and care in their work, just like practicing lawyers, to avoid potential legal consequences.

Revised Eligibility Criteria

Enrollment Requirements Altered:

Article 14 of the New Law increases the number of years required for enrollment in the table of practicing lawyers for individuals who previously worked in the judiciary, public prosecution offices, legal departments of ministries, or government agencies. Now, a minimum of three years of relevant experience is required, up from the previous two years stipulated under the old law.

Multiple Offices in One Emirate

New Requirements for Branch Offices:

Article 73 of the New Law requires law firms with multiple offices in the same emirate. Each branch must have at least one enrolled lawyer or legal consultant, marking a change from the previous regulations.

Staying compliant with these evolving legal standards is crucial to maintaining the integrity of the legal profession in the UAE. Whether you’re an advocate, legal consultant, or in-house lawyer, understanding and adhering to these changes is paramount.

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If you have any questions or require assistance in understanding and complying with the new regulations, please consult lawyers in Dubai for expert guidance.