Legal Counsel In The Middle East: For Expatriates, By Expatriates

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Founder &Managing Partner,Advocate Musthafa Zafeer O.V. & Senior Lawer and Managing Partner, Adv.Almana Zafeer
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According to the UN statistic there are more than 200 million expatriates. Therefore, it is imperative that expats have access to legal assistance during their life time, living and working in their guest country. Photo-Levi

 “A multinational firm from UK has plans of  expanding its operations in the Middle East. Because of the cultural differences and marked business practices in the Middle East and GCC countries, they need guidance and legal representation in setting up their operations, corporate restructuring, capital increases and reductions, business licencing , networking with potential clients and strategies on market penetration, from experts who are familiar with the new environment and its legal framework.”

Expatriate “X” was recruited by a US Company based in Dubai, to Afghanistan. The company booked a flight (which was not on the approved list of flights by the U.S Govt) for him to travel to Kabul. By a sad twist of fate, the flight crashed and the employee died. His family in the Philippines, wants to file a lawsuit against the company for negligence  In such a multi-jurisdiction scenario, whom do they approach?”

“Ms.J”, an Expatriate Romanian, left her husband, who is a US National working in the UAE.  Along with her 5 year old son,she left for Romania, to get away from her husband. She now wants to file for divorce and maintenance of her  son. How does she go about this?”

Expatriate “A”, had been a loyal employee at a firm in the UAE for the past 20 years. On account of an unfortunate road accident, “A” lost his life. His family in India, has no clue, on how to approach the firm for reclamation of compensation .”

The above scenarios are  examples of some of the legal situations that an Expatriate may face,  in a foreign country.

EXPATRIATE COMMUNITY AND THE JUSTICE SYSTEM :

We live in a multipolar globalised world, where the expatriate community is ever growing, migrating from one city to another , bridging cultures and imbibing new ones. According to the UN Statistic there are more than 200 million expats living outside their own country.

The UAE has the maximum number of expatriates than any other country when compared to its natives. Because of UAE’s extremely liberal and open-minded culture when compared to its neighbours, this has resulted in mass immigration from all over the world, including people from western nations for employment and investment opportunities to the Emirates. Incidentally, the native Emiratis are outnumbered by their expatriate counterparts. According to the UAE statistics Bureau 2010 estimates, expatriates stood at nearly 7.316 million, accounting for over 90 per cent of the country’s total population.

The case scenarios mentioned above,in the prologue of the article,  are just tip of the iceberg. Dig a little deeper and you will see thousands languishing their lives in their host countries, due to legal/marital/employment issues, without having a clue on how to exercise their rights. Given the scenario, there is a dire need, for a legible legal counsel/representation for the expatriates in their countries of residence.

Many international firms have in recent years mushroomed to address this very growing need. Musthafa & Almana International Lawyers and Legal Consultants, is one of the leading Legal Advisory Firms excelling in Expatriate & Corporate Law in Dubai, which has expanded to three other major jurisdictions in the UAE, UK and India. What sets it apart is that it’s a legal advisory firm by the expatriates, for the expatriates .

ABOUT THE FIRM :MUSTHAFA & ALMANA INTERNATIONAL LAWYERS AND LEGAL CONSULTANTS:

Founder &Managing Partner,Advocate Musthafa Zafeer O.V. & Senior Lawer and Managing Partner, Adv.Almana Zafeer
Founder &Managing Partner,Advocate Musthafa Zafeer O.V. & Senior Lawer and Managing Partner, Adv.Almana Zafeer

Musthafa & Almana was founded in India in 1992, in the state of Kerala, by Mr. Musthafa Zafeer.O.V. and Mrs. Almana Zafeer, the founding partners. It’s exponential growth from a one state based law firm, to an international law firm with multi-jurisdiction rights, is quite an inspirational journey. In 1997 Musthafa & Almana entered a Joint Venture alliance with a  UAE law firm until they were granted permission to start their own international legal consultancy practice in 2005 in the Emirates of Ras Al Khaimah .

Says Mr. Musthafa Zafeer, “It seemed as a pipe dream when we first began, not knowing how or the extent we could provide our legal expertise in the Middle East. There were many people who believed in us and helped us during our initial start up. We are glad that we have been able to provide our legal assistance to so many people from the  expatriate community from all over the world, within the UAE. The UAE government and the local legal community have helped us a lot in this regard.”

By 2010 the firm had entered the  UK Jurisdiction with their office in London, and expanded operations into Qatar and Oman. It is the only international law firm with a strong India-centric practice and having offices in India. In the past 2 decades, Musthafa & Almana have helped hundreds of expatriates in the UAE and other GCC countries resolve legal issues pertaining to the laws in their country of residence.

What sets Musthafa & Almana apart is the depth and scope of its legal advisory services, in understanding the business culture and legal ramifications of their countries of operation. The firm has a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural lawyers from different parts of the world.

The firm’s lawyers have decades of experience in multi-jurisdictional issues in diverse legal systems. They have about 100 lawyers across the globe, working as a team in various jurisdictions. Their operations are in compliance with the rules and regulations of each country that they represent.

Multi-ethnic Legal Representation. The Firm's Lawyers with its Founders.
Multi-ethnic Legal Representation. The Firm’s Lawyers with its Founders.

NICHE AREAS OF LEGAL PRACTICE:

1) The Corporate Commercial Practice at Musthafa & Almana is one of the most comprehensive and covers 3 major jurisdictions, namely, UAE, UK, India and 2 GCC jurisdictions of Oman and Qatar through associate Partner law firms. The firm has come up with an exclusive office in Dubai to cater to the needs of the business & corporate clients and has introduced a new concept to UAE market The Legal Lounge for Business (LLB). In 2013 the firm has been appointed by Dubai FDI as their sole legal representatives and advisors for India, aiming at catering to the needs of investors from India. It’s niche services include the following :

1. Corporate Structuring and Regulatory Advice
2. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)
3. Mergers & Acquisitions
4. Intellectual Property Rights Registration and Protection.
5. Commercial Advice & Agreements
6. Employment Law & Employee Benefits
7. Estate Planning Wills & Trusts
8. Arbitration & Mediation.

2) Family Law is also another area of expertise of the Firm. Musthafa & Almana deals with legal consults relating to multi-jurisdictional family matters and disputes. This is mostly in relation to cross border issues and if the country in question has extradition treaty in place and if it’s a signatory to the Hague or New York Convention.

Almana Musthafa, Managing Partner & Head of Family Law, said that, “In Cross Border cases, “The Principle of Commity” holds good and the judgement passed by the UAE courts could hold or influence judgement in foreign courts. This is a huge advantage for those in custody disputes of children. We at Musthafa & Almana however try our best to resolve domestic issues without hostility.” She also mentioned that, “one of the most wonderful things about UAE federal laws is that it conducts trials in accordance with the personal laws of the individual.”

Ms. Almana further explains that family law includes :

1. Marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships
2. Divorce and custody rights
3. Mediation, collaborative law & family arbritration
4. Compensation and alimony
5. Paternity testing and Paternity Fraud

3) Fashion Law: Musthafa & Almana introduced this niche area of law, understanding very well it’s scope and applicability in the Middle East Region considering the rate at which UAE is fast becoming the fashion hub of the Middle East with multitude of designers on the rise. Says Almana Musthafa, “Both local and international designers consider UAE, the Fashion Mecca, comparable to New York, Paris and Milan. Fashion law deals with Intellectual Property, international and domestic transactions, employment concerns and Import/Export Issues, and we make sure that our client’s interests are protected at all costs.”

It  is one of the very first Middle Eastern Law firms to set up the  fashion law practice division in the UK , UAE and India. The concept of fashion law is a relatively new one and is that area of law that deals with the day to day business problems of the fashion industry. As with other recently developed sub specialties of business law (such as entertainment law, sports law, or art law), fashion law is actually a compilation of several different legal disciplines .

According to Mr. Musthafa Zafeer, “The characteristics of fashion industry and the increasing complexity of both the industry and the laws that affect it have led to a need for fashion executives to become more knowledgeable about the law and more aware of when they need professional legal advice. As the fashion industry has grown in size and scope, it has begun to leave a growing trail of litigation behind it. All large industries are marked by some degree of litigation, and there is no reason that the fashion industry should be any different. The accumulated insights and legal principles established in cases over the years have created a sort of ‘fashion jurisprudence’ and growing specialization in the legal profession have made the fashion industry a source of opportunity for lawyers and law firms.”

LEGAL COUNSEL BY EXPATRIATES, FOR EXPATRIATES :

Apart from the commercial legal practice Musthafa & Almana are also  involved in legal awareness campaigns and are in the fore front of legal education. It has  partnerships and associations with various government and judicial entities such as Dubai Judicial Institute, Sharjah International Commercial Arbitration Centre  and the  Dubai FDI.

Legal Representations for Expatriate community in the UAE, has truly come as a blessing. In a Foreign country it is a boon to have a 3rd party counsel who can guide you through the laws of the land to obtain justice or conduct your business in a safe and secure environment. Musthafa & Almana have made it their mission to be that agent of counsel, providing solace to the many who seek their assistance  A Firm that truly reflects the Expatriate sentiment – By the Expatriates, For the Expatriates, true to its logo.

Are you an Expatriate and in need of legal help? You may send in your query to our email address  [email protected]  and have Musthafa & Almana International Lawyers and Legal Consultants answer it for you OR you may post your query as a comment here.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Mr. Musthafa Zafeer and Ma’am Almana Zafeer,

    Got this blog about your law firm while looking for a firm to file a law suit against the comppany that I was working in Oman, and am really impressed by your achievement in the field.

    I don’t know if you or any of your employees will reply to this mail, but I’m asking my queries, anyway.

    I was employed by a company in Oman from 1999 till 2011. I joined as a Male Nurse, but later when I got a chance, I applied and got the appointment as the Assistant Project Manager of the company. In Aug 2011, I was unceremoniously sacked by my company, for no obvious reasons. I was working good and I was one in good relationship with all including the senior managers. Later, it was known that they have sacked me to make way for a local Omani guy who had some good friendly relationship with someone in the company.

    I left the company, but after 2 months I was asked whether I am willing to join as a Medic. I agreed, and joined back and worked for a hitch of 6 weeks, but I could not enjoy the work. So I went on my next leave and send them my resignation mail.

    The company did not pay me anything by way of gratuity/provident fund or any other end of service benefits, though I had worked for the company for more than 12 years. Our contract did have a clause that no end of services benefit will be paid to us. But now I understand that, that clause is illegal, and against the Oman labour law.

    Now my query is, is there any chance that I can file a law suit against the company and win my gratuity or any other benefits, after all these 4 yrs or so since I left the company?

    I sincerely hope to hear from you, Sir.

    Thanking you and anticipating a response to my query,

    Yours truly,

    Achuthan A R

    • Dear Achuthan, thanks for your query. We will inform Musthafa and Almana and ask them to get in touch directly with you. Wish you get a solution for your gratuity problem!

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