This survey was prepared on the basis of in-depth research carried out during February 2018. The results are based on data collected from 34 international law firms in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. The report was researched by Gwilym Davies of Lexology.
Legal market overview
Law firms in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region typically enjoyed a successful year in 2017. However, ongoing regional political disputes, coupled with uncertainty surrounding the process of economic diversification, have generated a sense of caution among respondents with regard to the year ahead.
An ongoing diplomatic crisis between Qatar and several of its GCC neighbours has seen travel bans and trade embargos put in place. As a result, international law firms with offices in Doha now face unprecedented logistical and regulatory challenges.
On January 1 2018 the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia introduced value added tax (VAT), at a rate of 5%. Given that the new sales tax does not apply to residential rents, participants generally report that it is unlikely to factor heavily into salary review decisions during the coming year.
International law firms continue to see Saudi Arabia as a key market for future development as the kingdom pushes forward with ‘Saudi Vision 2030’ – its bold and ambitious plan for economic diversification and social change.
International law firms with operations in Saudi Arabia are facing increasing regulatory scrutiny surrounding the nature of their relationships with local firms.
Despite various drives for regional economic diversification and liberalisation, there is also a growing regional trend for protectionism and isolationism in terms of immigration and work rights for foreigners.
Despite healthy volumes of work and high levels of utilisation, many law firms surveyed remain hesitant to increase headcounts within the GCC region, while outsourcing of work to cheaper European offices is becoming increasingly common during work surges.
Compensation and human resources
Only 42% of the law firms surveyed in Dubai increased fee-earner headcount during the past year.
The mean net change in total headcount among the law firms surveyed in Dubai stood at a 2% increase during the past year.
Only 36% of the law firms surveyed in Dubai increased like-for-like salary bands for associate pay during the past year.
The average number of billable hours clocked by associates during the last financial year in Dubai stands at 1,276 hours.
The average realisation rate reported among the firms surveyed in Dubai during the last financial year stands at 83%. Law firms that participate in our confidential research surveys are eligible for a 40%+ discount on the price of this report. For details on how to participate and purchase at a discounted price, and for pricing of customised multi-country report packages contact Gwilym Davies at gdavies@GlobeBMG.com or on +44 (0) 20 7940 6858.