Chambers Global – Defining the Middle East for Submissions and Rankings

In this article, the Chambers Global Team discuss how in Submissions and Rankings it defines the Middle East, why, and how firms can submit correctly.

Published on 16 July 2021
Written by Ollie Dimsdale
Ollie Dimsdale

Middle East: Chambers Definition of the jurisdiction

The concept of the Middle East has been defined in different ways at different times. Chambers and Partners remains conscious of this, while also needing to use the term for research and legal ranking purposes. Central to our own definition is the existence of the Gulf Co-operation Council, or GCC - an economic union which covers the jurisdictions of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – collectively form the economic hub of the region.

The Chambers definition of the Middle East additionally includes the Arabic-speaking countries of the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq), as well as Egypt, Yemen and Iran. Chambers Submissions for Middle East-Wide sections should feature a broad spread of work originating in these 13 countries, although the lawyers leading this work may be based anywhere in the world.

The Israeli legal market and economy

Israel’s exclusion from this list may be the biggest surprise to some readers, yet there several valid reasons to define the Middle East in this way – at least for the purposes of Chambers’ rankings and legal reviews. Some of these reasons are dictated by political realities. Historically there were no diplomatic relations between Israel and GCC states; it was not even possible to catch a direct flight from Dubai to Tel Aviv. At the time of writing, there are indications that this situation may be set to change: in September 2020, Israel signed agreements to establish ‘normal’ diplomatic relations with both Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Yet for many years there has been no direct trade between Israel and the Gulf economies.

Leaving this point aside, there remain several major differences between Israel’s economy and those of the region’s Arab states. While an oil and gas market does exist within Israel – principally through ongoing exploration of the Leviathan and Tamar offshore gas fields – this is a relatively recent development. Oil and gas still accounts for a relatively small portion of Israel’s economy, with the pharmaceuticals and technology sectors equally if not even more significant. The Israeli economy’s relatively low emphasis on hydrocarbons is particularly marked when viewed in comparison to those of Saudi Arabia or the UAE.

The Magic Circle and their legal work in the Gulf States

Differences can also be observed within the legal sector. In 1975, Clifford Chance became the first foreign law firm to open in Dubai. Since then, the Gulf presence of the Magic Circle of legal providers and several big-name US law firms has grown exponentially. The likes of Allen & Overy, Freshfields, White & Case and Baker McKenzie have become a regular feature of top-tier transactional work across the region – although it should be stated that the regulatory regime of several Middle Eastern countries currently requires their presence to be via an association partnership with a domestic legal bench.

In contrast, and in part due to some of the political issues outlined above, the Israeli legal market has remained a self-contained one. The state in fact has a long list of homegrown law firms – such as Meitar and Goldfarb Seligman – which continue to attract world-class lawyers across every discipline and practice area. No international law firm maintains a full-service presence in Israel; when international law service providers are active on Israeli matters, such work is instead typically handled from offices in New York or London.

In addition to these comments on Israel, it should also be stressed that Turkey research falls within the remit of our Europe team, and not Middle East. We are aware that certain lawyers based in Dubai, or elsewhere in the Gulf, may regularly be involved in Turkey-related matters, but law firms should submit this work for consideration as under the Expert Based Abroad category rather than for a ranking in the main Turkey tables (and certainly not for Middle East-Wide). On a similar note, be aware that Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan research is overseen by our Asia team.

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For further information and to answer any questions regarding Chambers Submissions and our definitions, please email [email protected]

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