The visit was a success on all three counts. The delegation visited 13 leading local law firms, visited the new Dispute Resolution Centres/Courts in Dubai and Qatar and held a well attended networking reception in each of the three jurisdictions. The International Secretariat produced an Arabic language version of the “Brief Guide to Using a Barrister” which was widely distributed during the visit (now also available on the Bar Council website).
The delegation was particularly interested in meeting locally owned law firms since they often require additional expertise in English law and/or dispute resolution services and they wish to compete effectively in an increasingly globalised environment. Once they have been advised of how international direct access works they are likely to instruct the Bar. Furthermore, the receptions – two of them hosted by UK embassies - were useful in getting our message across not just to the local firms – also via the media. Several interviews were conducted and the visit was featured in the local print media.
As a result of the visit our understanding of the local legal services markets has been much improved. It became apparent from our encounters that arbitration is the main and increasing means of international DR in the region. Also on the increase is the use of English law as the basis of international contracts in the region. Most local law firms were unaware that they could instruct the bar directly and not just via solicitors. It was also not widely known that the Bar can also be used for advisory and not just for advocacy work. The English solicitors we visited and invited to our receptions responded positively and continue to see the Bar as a useful resource.
Locally owned law firms were very interested in secondments by young barristers to their firms and to send some of their young associates to chambers in London for work experience in common law.
Following the visit the International Committee is exploring how to intensify the Bar’s presence in the region. Initially consideration will be given to a dedicated telephone service and web-based service by the International Secretariat to respond to interest from the region in instructing barristers. In addition plans will be made for another mission in 2009 since a one-off visit will not make a sufficient impact in establishing the profile of the Bar in the region.
A more detailed article on this visit will appear in next month’s Counsel.