Make the Move: Working as a Lawyer in Dubai

Written By:
Matthew Thomas
Senior Consultant
Dubai is now one of the leading global commercial centres in the world. Along with Abu Dhabi, Dubai has allowed its culture to westernise, which makes it more attractive to foreign lawyers than its neighbouring Middle Eastern regions.

Dubai is also full of lawyers from multiple nations and a myriad of backgrounds, making it a truly cultural melting pot. This is a massive plus for anyone who wants to learn more about the world – particularly anyone who wants to do so from the comfort of an air-conditioned bar in just one single nation!

There is no doubt that the recent introduction of value added tax has made overseas lawyers think more cautiously about making a move to Dubai. The addition of VAT along with oil prices plummeting and currency fluctuations due to Brexit affecting tourism and other economic uncertainty have given rise for concern. However, there remains to be a big push on strategic growth in Dubai with strategies and developments in place to ensure growth within the region.

The Dubai 2020 expo is not too far away and there is said to have been AED55bn+ invested in the region which in turn has had a knock-on effect on project developments and infrastructure throughout Dubai (a resilient approach). There has been a number of high profile office closures in Dubai over the past 12 months which has attracted some negative press for the legal market in the region. Closures are said to be for a variety of reasons and ones which carry pros and cons for the respective firms. There is no denying that firms have become a lot more selective and cautious when it comes to hiring over the past 12 months across a number of practice areas, that being said paying particular attention to corporate and M&A activity there has been a strong level of inbound and outbound investment activity.

The practice areas that remain strong in Dubai are:

  • Corporate M&A
  • Banking & Finance
  • Islamic finance
  • Construction and Major Projects

Corporate, construction and to some extent finance (conventional and Islamic), have all been stable areas of recruitment. Healthcare and Education remain very strong sectors in the UAE and accordingly stand out when it comes to attracting investment; both from within the market and from external equity streams. The higher levels of inbound, outbound and regional M&A activity associated with investment in these sectors has been influential in the frequency of corporate transactional positions remaining stable.


VAT has just been added to the Middle East, but the tax system in Dubai still remains very favourable for an overseas lawyer.

Cost of Living

Housing prices have remained flat over the past 6-12 months. According to research on Expatistan, the cost of living in Dubai is 13% more expensive than in Sydney.


The weather across the entire region can only be described as hot! Summers average 40 degrees, and winters hover around 25 degrees. There is little to no rainfall year-round.


You can never ever suffer from boredom in a city within an emirate that has more activities, events, services and facilities than you could get around to enjoying in one lifetime. There is always something new to do, try, taste, see, encounter or experience in Dubai.

Making a move to Dubai does require you to obtain a visa and in some instances you will need to re-qualify. Obtaining a visa is relatively easier than the US or the UK for Australian/NZ qualified lawyers. All of our clients are extremely helpful throughout this process and will help you every step of the way.

Does the above sound appealing? If you have ever thought about a move the UAE please get in touch with one of our consultants to discuss your options.