Stock court justice judge
Court Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: If you have suffered any personal or financial damages due to a criminal or negligent activity by someone else, and wish to file a court case to demand a settlement, you might need to hire a lawyer to represent you in a UAE court. However, can the lawyer ask you to pay a certain percentage of the settlement amount, if you win the case? And what are the factors that you need to consider before hiring a lawyer in the UAE? Here is all you need to know.

In simple terms, a lawyer cannot charge his fees based on the percentage of the claim. For example, a lawyer cannot demand his fees based on a percentage of the amount that the client would eventually recover from a court judgement.

- Hari Wadhwana, Associate at Dubai-based law firm OGH

Before hiring a lawyer

Hari Wadhwana, Associate at Dubai-based law firm OGH, listed a few essential elements that a person must consider before engaging a lawyer in UAE:

1. Ensure the lawyer confirms that he or she is not conflicted to act on your behalf before sharing any confidential information.

2. Ensure that the lawyer is registered with an Advocacy firm or holds relevant 'right of audience' before the relevant court. Simply put, you have to ensure that the lawyer is registered to appear in Court on your behalf.

3. Execute a formal Legal Fee Agreement with the Lawyer. This agreement should contain certain key details like the scope of work for the lawyer, the fees that you will be paying and the confidentiality clause to protect your interests.

4. You should also ensure that you pay all fees which are referred to in the agreement and performs your part of the agreement.

5. You should give all the documents or information that you have in your possession in relation to the matter to the lawyer.

6. Client must expect the lawyer to give timely updates of the matter either by email or message, in written form.

Can my lawyer charge a percentage of the claim amount?

Speaking to Gulf News about the any such dispute in fee payment, Wadhwana said: “This is a common issue and there is very little awareness on whether the lawyers can charge a percentage of the claim amount, before or after litigation. The answer to this question lies in Federal Law No. 23 of 1991 which regulates lawyers in UAE.”

Article 31 of the law states: “The lawyer may not purchase all or some of the rights subject of the dispute, or agree to receive a part thereof as honoraria therefore.”

“In simple terms, a lawyer cannot charge his fees based on the percentage of the claim. For example, a lawyer cannot demand his fees based on a percentage of the amount that the client would eventually recover from a court judgement. The lawyer can agree on a fixed sum of fees, which is to be payable upfront, in installments or after the judgement. The critical issue is that the fee should be fixed and not dependent on the claim amount,” he said.

What if my Legal Fee Agreement mentions such payment?

Even if an agreement signed by the client and lawyer stipulates that the lawyer would receive a percentage of the claim amount as fees, the clause would be void and not enforceable before UAE authorities, according to Wadhwana.

“In the event a lawyer charges a fee on a percentage basis and such an arrangement is referred to in the agreement, the client can raise a dispute before the Dubai Legal Affairs Department or Federal Legal Affairs Department,” he added.

Article 47 and 31 of Federal Law No. 23 of 1991 provide details of the disciplinary actions that lawyers can face in such breaches of obligations as set forth by the law, which include receiving a warning letter, being suspended from work for up to two years, or cancellation of the lawyer’s licence.