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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 26 January 2021

Oman to ban foreign lawyers from court representation

About 600 lawyers stand to lose their jobs under new regulations

Only Omani lawyers will be able to represent people in the country's court. Saleh Al Shaibany for The National
Only Omani lawyers will be able to represent people in the country's court. Saleh Al Shaibany for The National

Expatriate lawyers will be barred from providing representation in Omani courts from January.

The decision would render around 600 foreign lawyers redundant.

The Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs said the decision will not affect international law firms operating in the country, provided their cases are represented by Omani lawyers.

“The ministry calls on law firms, civil law firms and all concerned authorities in the Sultanate to take all necessary measures to make sure expatriate lawyers do not represent cases in the courts of laws effective from January 1 2021,” a ministry statement said.

Foreign legal practitioners may continue to work in Oman as office consultants or advisers, the ministry said.

According to the Oman Lawyers Association, the decision will create more jobs for Omani law graduates.

“We are expecting from next year, many Omani youngsters will become lawyers and actively engage in the courts of law when expatriates can no longer appear before the courts, including the Supreme Court of Oman,” said Dr Mohammed Al Zadjali, chairman of Oman Lawyers Association.

According to official statistics, there are about 600 expatriate lawyers in the country who appear in the courts on a regular basis, compared to only 112 Omanis.

Statistics also show more than 1,000 Omanis are studying law at universities and colleges.

About 400 Omani law graduates are still looking for jobs.

Omani law students cautiously welcomed the news. They said the decision would create jobs for them but would take away vital experience from the profession.

“I think this decision is in our interest because there will be more employment opportunities for us,” Warda Al Jawhari, 22, a law student at the Modern College of Business and Science in Muscat, said.

"At the same time it is a loss because foreign lawyers have a lot of knowledge and experience and most local law firms rely on them."

Expatriate lawyers echoed similar sentiments. Fresh law graduates would need exposure to sharpen their professional skills, they said.

“I understand the current [need to create] jobs for Omanis but young lawyers need the international experience from expatriate lawyers to broaden their horizons,” an expatriate lawyer, who declined to be identified, said. "It is good news in a way but bad in another way."

Some citizens also voiced their concerns about the move.

“I am not saying that I don’t trust Omani lawyers but in many financial dispute cases, I personally would want an expatriate lawyer with extensive experience to represent me,” Zaher Al Kindy, 56, a property investor based in Muscat, said.

Updated: December 28, 2020 08:53 AM

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