Taylor Wessing celebrates 15 years of legal practice in the UAE

20-Feb-2012  |  The Middle East

Celebrating its 15th anniversary in the Middle East, Taylor Wessing (Middle East) LLP, the regional office of the international law firm, praised the progress of the UAE’s legal system to become, in its view, one of the most advanced jurisdictions in the region. According to Taylor Wessing, the last 10 years have witnessed some of the most progressive developments in the UAE’s legal history. However, as the country continues to diversify its economy away from oil, the firm says new legal structures are required to support future industries deemed to be of national importance.

Originally founded in 1997 as Key & Dixon and rebranded to Taylor Wessing in 2002 following a merger with the European practice, Taylor Wessing (Middle East) LLP is one of the longest established international law firms in the UAE. With its founding partners bringing to the firm more than 60 years of combined local legal practice, Taylor Wessing’s collective experience includes the formative years that followed the formation of the union in 1971.

While the firm says the UAE has continually strived to advance its legal frameworks during this time, it credits four major legislative changes for helping to make the country more attractive to foreign investors. According to Taylor Wessing, these legal milestones also make the UAE the most developed legal system within the Middle East.

Over the past 15 years, the expansion of the JAFZA free zone model to other designated areas across the UAE has permitted foreigners to establish 100 per cent foreign-owned entities in increasing numbers. Coupled with the introduction of freehold title for foreigners in 2006, we’ve seen expatriates want to invest more of their time and money in the country,” explained Christopher Dixon, Managing Partner, Taylor Wessing (Middle East) LLP. “However, the real step change in the development of the UAE legal system came with the creation of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) in 2004.  This introduced to the country a new legal regime based on Western common law systems.

More recently, the expansion of the DIFC courts to adjudicate disputes between parties not registered in the DIFC, subject to mutual agreement, means businesses now have the choice to have their cases heard in Arabic or English, using civil or common law.

The expansion of the DIFC jurisdiction signals significant progress of the UAE’s legal system.  It is likely to encourage greater foreign investment in Dubai as foreign entities have, over the years, had concerns over the length of time it can take to obtain a judgment in the local courts and the difficulties associated with the requirement for the proceedings and all documentation to be in Arabic,” added Dixon.

While great strides have been taken to create a robust and pro-business legal system in the UAE, Taylor Wessing says the country’s diversification strategy will require new legal structures and infrastructure to support the future industries of the country, particularly in the areas of sustainability and renewable energy, healthcare, corporate governance and intellectual property.

We applaud the efforts of the UAE leadership and government to make the country a world leader in clean energy. However, innovation alone cannot achieve this ambitious target. Decentralisation of utility providers, for example, will provide the impetus for private investments in the renewable energy field,” said Dixon.

Dixon added: “Some of the most significant changes to the UAE’s legal frameworks have happened in the last 10 years, which is a testament to the responsiveness of the government to support the country’s rapid pace of progress. As the UAE enters a new phase of maturity, we look forward to playing our part in creating legal structures to support its economic development, especially in regards to data protection, corporate governance practices and healthcare policy.”  

Taylor Wessing (Middle East) LLP draws on its depth of regional and international expertise to regularly comment on draft legislation in the UAE and to introduce pioneering frameworks into the local legal system. Taylor Wessing previously assisted the Legal Affairs Department in the drafting of a Maritime Code for Dubai. It also established the first investment structure under the DIFC’s new Collective Investment Funds regime, enacted in 2010, and was the first law firm to arrange registration of a pledge over company shares at the Dubai Department of Economic Development as a recognised form of security interest.

Contacts Christopher Dixon, Mark Fraser, Jerry Parks, Jeremy Cama, Ben Constance, Marie-Edwige Borye, Sarit Thomas