Lawyers looking to network with peers might find a fit in Corporate Counsel Middle East (CCME).
The group is restricted to in-house lawyers working for companies in the region and has more than 250 members.
Elias Hayek, the group's president, who is also vice president for legal affairs at Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, discusses some of the issues of interest to the group's members.
What purpose does CCME serve?
It is an opportunity for networking and for lawyers to identify their colleagues who might be practising in areas that are the same or similar … The majority of our events have an educational focus. We put on events that are intended to speak about recent developments in the various jurisdictions we cover, or we'll talk about cases that have applied the law to the extent that they are noteworthy.
Which noteworthy cases have members been discussing lately?
There have been noteworthy cases mainly with respect to the forum for dispute resolution in DIFC [the Dubai International Financial Centre], and the scope of the jurisdiction that it has to hear cases. There have also been some developments in relation to the various proceedings that relate to Dubai World that have been discussed [and] the various cases that were the subject of the economic downturn. There have also been some cases related to banks' rights to foreclose on properties. We've been interested, as practitioners, in the law and what the judges and courts have to say about these cases.
What has changed recently in the UAE that has affected in-house legal teams?
I think [DIFC's wider jurisdiction to hear cases is] the most interesting one. A lot of foreign companies like Starwood and others would have elected dispute resolution outside the UAE with any disputes they might have had with contracts. Having a potential alternative forum that is local is an interesting development, because it makes it easier for international companies to do business with local counterparts. It also gives the international company the comfort that the dispute resolution forum is providing a similar level of comfort with respect to the rules, procedures and regulations.
Is there a single, most important issue facing in-house legal teams in the region?
I wouldn't say there's a particular issue that's emerging. In general, the role of an in-house counsel in the region is complicated because of two reasons. One, the Middle East [is] made up of dozens of countries with their own individual laws that differ. Secondly, in many of those countries, the laws are still being developed or refined. As a result, it's an ever-changing landscape that requires you to keep up to speed on … landmark developments that relate to things like basic tax laws, rights to acquire licences, or shareholding from a foreign company. Many of these issues can alter the way that companies do business in the region.
* Neil Parmar