How to Get into Law Careers in the Middle East as an International Student
Today's lawyers deal with everything, from human rights to international regulations. And as a student in the Middle East, there are multiple paths that you can take to practice in the field.
What does studying law actually mean?
Before pursuing a law degree it's important to understand that TV series like Suits or How To Get Away With Murder often paint incomplete or misguiding pictures of the field. Being a lawyer largely involves researching rights, talking with clients or colleagues, and staring at a computer. Although certain high-profile international cases or niches within the industry might offer the same adrenaline rush you see on the big screen, pursuing law solely for those overglorified action thrillers might leave you underwhelmed.
But don't be discouraged — the field of law is anything but bleak. If you truly enjoy the intricacies of law and synthesizing research, the industry will offer a very rewarding career path.
“You don't even have to pursue a law degree as an undergraduate to become a lawyer!”
For many students, though, it might be difficult to distinguish between the realities of the industry and the exaggerated truths we are exposed to. Targeting internships — whether at local law firms or even larger companies — is a great way to gain experience in the field, learn different ways the law is practiced, and better understand a firm's culture.
Which law careers can I pursue in the Middle East?
While many might believe that law entails a unanimous career path for all graduates, there are many different paths that you can take.
As a public lawyer, you will typically be working at governmental agencies, either within the courts or as an in-house lawyer. The court system offers a variety of career prospects such as being a clerk, judge, or prosecutor. In-house lawyers work in small teams or individually as part of a governmental agency such as the Ministry of Finance, conducting research on the law and communicating their findings.
Private lawyers engage in some of the same work as their public counterparts such as in-house work, but the field also offers more diverse opportunities. You can work as part of an international law firm in the US or UK or even at a local firm. More experienced private lawyers might also act as consultants for individuals and help them with their legal needs.
Before considering what major or path to pursue to receive your degree, it's important to look at key differences between the two fields.
“The field of law is anything but bleak: if you truly enjoy the intricacies of the law and synthesizing research, the industry will offer a very rewarding career path.”
Make sure to take into account the following elements.
- Work-life balance: public lawyers have more structured, shorter work hours compared to private lawyers who might work later into the night.
- Salary: private law, with its various career prospects, offers a considerably higher salary than public law.
- Diversity of organization: since public law is often intertwined with the government, those lawyers generally all speak the same local language and are of the same culture. If you're looking for a more diverse office experience, private law might be the field for you.
Which paths can I follow to become a lawyer?
“If you have enough IB or A Level points, you can fast track straight to your Bachelor of Laws and be able to practice within 3 years.”
There are various different paths available to become a lawyer and deciding which to take mostly boils down to three key factors:
- How much time you want to spend studying
- Which career you want to pursue
- Where you want to study.
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — Best for those looking to practice in the Middle East.
This path is best suited for those looking to practice within the Middle East because of the constant exposure to Islamic laws and the Arabic language. For anyone looking to venture into international law or work outside of the GCC, US or UK degrees might be more worthwhile to get exposure to the laws and language.
US — Best for those looking for more flexibility in undergrad.
The US path is unique in the sense that it allows you to pursue an undergraduate degree in any field prior to law school. This means that you don't even have to pursue a law degree while an undergraduate to become a lawyer! For example, if you wanted to become an intellectual property lawyer, you could study literature or English for your bachelor's degree.
UK — Best for those with IB or A Level points to fast-track their degree.
The UK path is best suited for those looking to become a lawyer in the fastest way possible. If you have enough IB or A Level points, you can fast track straight to your Bachelor of Laws and be able to practice within 3 years.
Regardless of the path you pursue, bear in mind that there might be certain tests such as the Bar Exam in the US or the Shari’a for the Middle East that you might have to take. And before you even get to the point of becoming a practicing lawyer, consider which location you ultimately want to settle down in and your comfort level with the local culture, language, and people.
Overall, law is a very international discipline with real-world knowledge that you can apply to a variety of career paths and — by taking various examinations — in a variety of locations.