Associate – International Law Firm
The demand for associate and senior associate hiring bounced back strongly in 2021 and into 2022, with the UAE law firms and market bouncing back strongly.
The Legal 500 law firms in Dubai and increasingly in Abu Dhabi have sought to grow and expand, with lawyers either moving within the market, or relocating to the region from overseas.
Which law firms have been hiring?
From an illustrative analysis of the Legal 500 associate and senior associate moves between January 2021 to July 2022 in Dubai and Abu Dhabi on LinkedIn, most firms have been active in hiring at the associate and senior associate levels. The UK / global law firms making up a larger proportion of the L500 firms in the UAE, have been particularly active, along with the Magic Circle and large regional firms.
The US law firms in Dubai and Abu Dhabi have hired, with a particular focus on corporate, private equity and finance associates. Many of these hires coming from within the UAE / GCC and likely lured by the financial incentives on offer.
Which practice areas have firms been hiring in?
The traditional transactional areas such as corporate, finance and projects have made up the largest proportion of the hiring over the past 18 months. There has been a spike in demand for associates in growing practice areas such as Technology, Media & Telecommunications, Intellectual Property and Employment, as law firms seek to replicate the demands of new and changing clients, and developments in legislation.
Across the board L500 firms have been hiring into the largest and busiest core practice areas such as corporate, private equity, leverage / acquisition finance, construction arbitration, front end construction / projects, Debt Capital Markets, FS litigation and investigations, project finance.
The bulk of the hiring has been at the associate 2 – 5 pqe level, with firms looking for lawyers that can hit the ground running, without being too senior to disrupt existing team structures.
Lateral Partner Recruitment
The partner recruitment market in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in 2021 has seen some firms being particularly active in the market and/ or adhering to an overall strategy for the UAE, identifying areas where they are lacking coverage or bench strength. Movement within the market or lateral moves identifying a firm’s switch focus, and/or creating a ripple effect of lateral movement within the market.
The bulk of notable moves have been amongst the UK / global firms and US firms in range of sectors including banking, projects, corporate, shipping, litigation & investigations, construction disputes, demonstrating that established partners with specialist skills, UAE experience and client base are still in high demand.
For lawyers moving for partnership, these opportunities still exist, appearing to be around adding skillset and particularly those with client and / or market focus, i.e. tech sector or focused on the KSA or AD markets.
Interested in discussing the Dubai or Abu Dhabi market for Q4 2022 / Q1 2023?
Contact me directly at email@example.com or +971 4444 9489 to have a confidential discussion about the Dubai / Abu Dhabi / Middle East legal recruitment market, opportunities and developments.
Director - DMJ Middle East