19 Oct 2015


Authored by: Dina Mahdi


As the resilience of the global system continues to be tested by human rights conflicts, financial instability, environmental degradation, and political unrest, the importance of the rule of law, and the role of the legal profession, is ever more heightened. There has never been a greater need than now for the involvement of the legal profession and the use of legal imagination to identify solutions; this was a primary message conveyed by Former European Union President Jose Barroso to the 6000 attendees from over 135 countries who participated in this year’s International Bar Association Conference which was held in Vienna, Austria.

Poignantly coinciding with the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, which is widely recognized as a pillar and foundation of the rule of law, David Rifkin President of the IBA opened the ceremony by highlighting the important role played by lawyers in the development of just and stable legal systems through their involvement in the creation of domestic and international codes and legislation, noting: “Through our work, we enable business transactions; we encourage creativity by protecting intellectual property; we facilitate the successful and just resolution of disputes; we create the domestic laws and the international codes without which civil society could not function. Most importantly, lawyers serve as an independent bulwark against excessive power by governments. No other profession devotes as much of its time and energy to public service and pro bono work. We achieve all this through the power and creativity of our reasoning and the integrity of our actions. Too often, however, lawyers are taken for granted or the object of critical jokes. It is incumbent on all of us to explain to the rest of society – no, to shout – the great and important work that we do.”

Looking around the packed auditorium hall of the convention centre, the message resonated as each of us listened attentively. As a lawyer practicing in the UAE, the importance of the role played by lawyers in promoting a stronger rule of law in emerging markets such as the UAE is very clear. Corporate and commercial lawyers in particular have had a positive impact on the development of the rule of law in the UAE as they work to create and modify laws to make deals happen, to protect the integrity and stability of financial market development through stronger public governance and a stronger regulatory framework. Year by year, I have seen my colleagues rise to the challenge of promoting a stronger system of law in the UAE by working with UAE regulators to develop regulatory enhancements that continue to strengthen the financial and commercial markets of the UAE. Indeed, given the rapid economic and social development of the UAE in recent times, the UAE's legal profession has made an unprecedented contribution to the development of the rule of law and the progress of the nation.

As the week progressed, it became apparent that the majority of lawyers attending the IBA conference were business lawyers. While opportunities for networking and building a stronger global brand presence were high on the agenda, regardless of the discipline in which each lawyer practices, there was also a strong focus on building connections with firms and colleagues that deliver the highest level of professional and ethical standards to the practice of law in other jurisdictions, for the ultimate benefit of our clients.

As a young lawyer, I often hear about the various challenges our profession is facing with respect to the delivery of legal services and the increased training needs for us to respond to these, yet little mentoring is provided on the role of young lawyers in preserving and enhancing the rule of law. The role we each play in this was relayed loud and clear at this year’s IBA conference and most certainly resonated with me and the other lawyers who attended this year’s conference. The legal profession has done a great deal in the last 800 years to protect and preserve the rule of law, but as Mr. Barroso noted, a lot remains to be done. This is of even more importance in young legal systems, like that of the UAE.


This article, including any advice, commentary or recommendation herein, is provided on a complimentary basis without consideration of any specific objectives, circumstances or facts. It reflects the views of the writer which may, in some cases, differ from those of the firm, especially in the developing jurisdiction of the UAE.