English-language law degrees on offer at University of Dubai

Local lawyers welcome the new programmes, which will offer better access to international practices.

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DUBAI // The country’s first English-language law degree has been launched.

The course, unveiled on Wednesday, has been welcomed by local lawyers, who say they need better access to international practices.

The University of Dubai has launched two master’s degrees – one in dispute resolution and the other on the law relating to financial crime and money laundering.

“There is a big gap between training and academics here,” said Amna Al Jallaf, managing partner at Al Jallaf & Co advocates and legal consultants. “There is a need for higher-level training programmes to help connect with the big international companies.”

Mrs Al Jallaf said continuing education for practising lawyers was vital for the community.

“A lack of training to lawyers in the UAE means they don’t have the opportunity to train with the international firms, and lawyers here need to be able to work anywhere in the world,” she said.

She said a connection between the university and international firms with offices in the UAE would be of vital importance when it was time for students to apply their new degrees.

“I hope there will be a link between the university and these international firms,” Mrs Al Jallaf said. “The firms benefit from being here so the least they can do is train the local lawyers.”

Dr Eesa Bastaki, president of the university, said that was a priority.

“We are working on collaboration with local firms to ensure we offer internships,” he said.

Mrs Al Jallaf, a board member of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce said: “We need to be able to give them access to practice in other countries.”

Law degrees are offered by other institutions, including UAE University, but do not conduct classes in English.

Mark Beer, registrar of the Dubai International Financial Centre courts, said there was a massive demand for Emirati lawyers among international law firms and that this course would allow them to get the training they needed to enter those firms.

“There is the demand for Emiratis because they have the cultural and the language background as well as the education,” he said. “They bring the experience of the region, which is incredibly valuable for a law firm to have, which is why it’s vital to ensure there is that link between the university and these firms so students have that passageway.

“The courts would love to offer that perspective to students and allow them access to the people using the courts to let them work with law firms with offices around the world. It’s a world we’re very happy to share.”

Mr Beer said the course was of great importance to the UAE and would ensure a new breed of experts was able to combat money laundering and financial crimes.

“Money will flow to the least regulated environment so having experts in these areas will protect Dubai,” he said.

Prof Ananth Rao, chief academic officer at the university, said the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research had advised the institution to offer a master’s rather than a bachelor’s degree, because the market was already saturated with lower-level degrees

“We have decided to start small as the feedback we got was that there was most demand for these two areas,” he said.

Prof Rao has consulted with an academic advisory board for the past five years, comprising law-school deans from UAE University, Ivy League universities in the US and the University of Kuwait.

He said the emphasis has been to make the curriculum practical, to allow students to practise their skills in the workplace.

Employability will be a priority and courses will be held in the afternoons and weekends to allow those already working full time to study part time.

Dr Harold Koster, director of the new college of law, said the international focus was vital.

“This is law in the UAE but using international practices because this is where Dubai is graded,” he said.