The turn of 2020 saw a strong start for the legal market in the Middle East due to the stabilisation of oil prices and increasing government action towards diversifying and developing the economies across the region. This contributed to an increase in economic activity across several jurisdictions and positive growth projections for the coming year. Naturally, the pandemic has created a slowdown in such plans, although many critical projects/plans remain in process albeit at a more considered pace.
Most firms have quite lean teams, so a temporary slowdown in activity as a result of COVID-19 meant there was not too much pressure on utilisation and the expectation that hiring is likely to recover towards the end of 2020 and into 2021, should the COVID-19 situation remain under control and improve. In the meantime, the areas of most activity are likely to be more contentious focused, particularly construction/projects related litigation where work quality is excellent and variety unrivalled. We expect to see transactional needs to pick up again later in 2020.
Despite some firms imposing a temporary 20% reduction as a result of COVID-19 pressures, salaries have historically and continue to be very competitive and have the significant benefit of being tax free, with lawyers from heavily taxed jurisdictions doubling or sometimes tripling their take home income.
The majority of expat lawyers in the region are from the UK, Australia or New Zealand and enjoy the opportunity to work on a mix of top-quality international work as well as get involved in client development. The region can also offer top performing lawyers in mid-level international or regional firms in their respective countries take a step up to more globally recognised practices.
Recruitment needs of firms in the Middle East vary year to year however, the majority of roles which exist are for lawyers with between two and five years’ experience. More junior and senior roles do exist and we are very happy to speak to those lawyers interested in making the move to the region.
Despite the remaining global uncertainty, retaining and hiring top talent during turbulent times is a key component of success, with firms starting to look to capitalise on those willing to put their head above the parapet and who might be open to considering an alternative platform.
We hope that our salary benchmarking assists both law firms and lawyers as we all work together to ensure the success of the legal profession during and post-COVID-19.
Click below to download the full Middle East Private Practice Report 2020.