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Becoming a Law Firm Partner in the Middle East - the three options

Becoming a Law Firm Partner in the Middle East - the three options

written by Zahrah Suleman

​So, let’s say you’ve been a Senior Associate or Counsel at your firm for a while now. You’ve pretty much been running your own practice, getting in new clients and instructions, working the conference circuit and basically doing everything you should be in the run up to making Partner.

But there seems to be a problem…

Your partnership is being postponed for another year, the office can’t make up any Partners in your practice area this year or something just isn’t quite right. What do you do?

This is a very familiar scenario and you have a number of options:

Option 1: Wait and see what happens at your current firm.

Here you need to be honest with yourself – do I have a real prospect of making Partner at my current firm? This involves asking questions such as: How many Partners are made up in my office? How many Partners are made up in my practice area globally and what am I competing with? What support do I have internally? Does my team need another Partner? Market conditions also play a part, so these should also be kept in mind. However, if you choose to go with Option 1 and leave it too long, you may lessen your chances in Option 2 and Option 3.

Option 2: Look to move elsewhere into a Partner role.

The situation may be different outside your current firm. Given the position of Dubai as the hub for law firms in the Middle East, there are still more new entrants to the market who could look to bring you on as a Partner. In addition, existing firms may be looking to develop their offering by launching a new practice area. There are also firms that are seeking to add bench strength to their Partner ranks. Books of business and on-the-ground experience are key to this proposition. Some firms have a hard and fast rule in relation to what they expect incoming Partners to have as their portable book of business, whereas others may be more interested in your skill-set and on-the-ground experience.

Option 3: Look to move elsewhere on a defined Partner track.

Other firms may offer a defined Partner track if you join them, with clear targets attached. This type of move may place you at a firm that is looking to develop their team, giving you a platform from which you can build your business and map a clear route to Partner. The targets will differ between firms, and again, your book of business and on-the-ground experience are important.

All of the above options involve an element of risk and decisions of this kind are tough. However, I work with Senior Associates/Counsels in this position all the time, moving them into Option 2 or Option 3 roles, or indeed advising them to stay put at their current firm. If you find yourself in this situation and would like to have a confidential discussion to consider your options, feel free to contact me, Zahrah Suleman, on+44 207 400 2048or email me

If you would like more background on working in the region in a broader sense, please see our earlier posts Living and Working as a Lawyer in the Middle East as well as Thinking Beyond your Move to the Middle East

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