Changes to the rules surrounding the foreign ownership of companies in the UAE will not affect legal firms, as they are already permitted to establish an office in the country without a local partner.

By the end of the year, the government is expected to allow 100 per cent foreign ownership of local companies. Under current laws, companies outside of a freezone must have an Emirati partner who owns 51 per cent of the shares.

However, DLA Piper confirmed on Tuesday that law firms in the UAE were already exempt from those requirements and could open an office that was 100 per cent owned internationally.

According to a statement from the law firm, foreign legal consultancy practices in the UAE are one of the few sectors that are exempt by law from the requirement to associate with a UAE partner or sponsor outside of the country’s free zones.

These exempted professions include lawyers, architects, and engineers.

Broadly speaking, however, the changes announced Sunday will encourage investment in to the UAE, according to Thérèse Abou-Zeid, a legal director at DLA Piper.

“Foreign ownership restrictions are viewed by many international investors as a real barrier to fully engaging in business in the region so it is hoped that an ease in such restriction will materialise in a boost in the stream of foreign direct investment into the UAE,” Abou-Zeid told Gulf News on Tuesday.