As the Middle East has grown in popularity among lawyers as an attractive, tax-free emerging market, we recognised we had an increasing number of existing relationships with both common-law qualified expats there, as well as international clients moving into the region, keen to hire high-calibre candidates with UK training and qualifications. When we entered the market, there was a distinct lack of specialist recruiters in the space, particularly any that could provide our quality service and source candidates from top-rated UK and Australian law firms. We began with regular trips to the Middle East to gain market intelligence and recruitment trends, and were very soon brand ambassadors for our clients, as well as trusted advisors to candidates interested in relocation.
As the market matured, many new firms entered the region, making it a highly competitive space, with firms forced to differentiate themselves to attract candidates. The competition for talent has increased, particularly for locally based candidates with GCC experience, as well as in the in-house market. Recently, COVID-19 closed borders and paused visa applications, further intensifying the demand for lawyers already in the region and putting a question mark over future relocations. The evolving Gulf economies, such as Saudi Arabia’s VAT increase and move away from a reliance on oil, has also meant widespread restructuring in many sectors, and a new sensitivity to costs.
Confident that movement restrictions will be relaxed over time, we have continued with our relationship-driven approach, both selling the Middle East appeal to global candidates, and strengthening our relationships with lawyers already in the region. Through our MarketWatch service we keep passive international candidates up to date with market trends, and in the light of the global pandemic have been advising on remote working and onboarding to continue our high-quality service to clients and candidates alike .