x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Code of ethics to regulate lawyers

The UAE will implement a code of ethics for lawyers in the country.

DUBAI // Lawyers in the UAE will be held accountable to a code of ethics drafted by the Ministry of Justice from next year.

Dr Hadef bin Jouan Al Dhaheri, the UAE Minister of Justice, announced the plan yesterday at the International Bar Association's annual conference, saying the Government wanted to better regulate the legal profession.

It will be the first professional code of ethics regulating the standards of practice for lawyers in the UAE.

"The Government is organising the legal profession and judiciary through the development of the code of ethics for lawyers to complement the legislations governing the practice of law before the courts," Dr Al Dhaheri said yesterday.

Details of the code are being developed, said Jamila Al Niyadi, an official at the Ministry of Justice.

"What the code will encompass has not been finalised," Ms Al Niyadi said. "At this time, everything is being put in to consideration.

"It will have to go undergo a number of different processes and gain approval from the Ruler before it will be put in place."

The code will apply to all of the country's federal courts, which include the UAE Supreme Court, UAE State Security Court, and the Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Qaiwain and Fujairah courts.

"Local jurisdictions like Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah can either develop their own codes or use ours, but they are not forced to implement it," she said.

Although details were scarce, the plan was welcomed by UAE practitioners.

"It's long overdue," said Claire Grainger, senior partner at Prestige Advocates and Legal Consultants. "The UAE legal profession needs to have a code of ethics. It has so many lawyers from so many countries that work within their own legal parameters, which leads to unethical behaviours," she said. "The lack of standards has cast a shadow over the profession."

The Dubai Ruler's Court, which regulates all licensing of lawyers and firms in Dubai, has welcomed the idea of a code of ethics, according to Ms Grainger, who said she had presented the idea to the court's members.

"They are extremely keen to do so, to raise the profile of all lawyers practising in the UAE and Dubai to international levels," she said.

A precursor to the federal code of ethics came in August when the Dubai Government began to license all practising lawyers. The licensing is meant to weed out the conflicts of interest, shoddy advice and inappropriate fees that some lawyers say are common problems in Dubai.

Federal law previously required only firms to register with the Government, not individual lawyers. There are no set standards for training or qualification that allow a lawyer to provide legal services.

Under Dubai's new system, no individuals can offer those services - including pleading cases, providing legal opinions and advice and drafting contracts - unless they are licensed by the Government of Dubai Legal Affairs Department.

Lawyers with international firms may be required to maintain membership in their home bar associations or at least have had some level of education.

Firms must pay Dh3,000 for each advocate or "legal consultant" on staff, plus Dh2,000 to register each lawyer. Their licences must be renewed each year.

amustafa@thenational.ae