The Regulations for Licensing Foreign Law Firms

licensing - EN


Issued by Ministerial Resolution No. 186 dated 25/01/1444 AH

Foreign Consultant

The Executive Regulations for Licensing Foreign Law Firms issued by Ministerial Resolution No. 186 dated 25/01/1444 AH is officially published on 27/02/1444 AH corresponding to 23/09/2022 G (the “Executive Regulations”), where its provisions included a reference to hiring a non-Saudi consultant, which is the subject of this short article.

The Code of Law Practice issued by Royal Decree No. M/38 dated 28/07/1422 AH (the “Law”) included provisions related to hiring a non-Saudi consultant under an employment contract, which is restricted by the following conditions applicable on such consultant:

  • Having a lawyer’s license.
  • Having more than 5 years of experience.
  • Being registered in the membership of the Saudi Bar Association.
  • Refraining from pleading before the Courts, the Board of Grievances and the Committees.

It is also worth noting that the Executive Regulations stipulated that in order for the requirement of having a lawyer’s license according to a foreign law to be considered acceptable, the standards for licensing according to that law must not be less than the standards approved for licensing in the Saudi Arabia.

The Executive Regulations defined the non-Saudi consultant as the consultant registered in the register of non-Saudi consultants at the Ministry of Justice, which restricted the hire of a non-Saudi consultant by its prior registration in that register. The duties of a non-Saudi consultant include adherence to the rules of professional conduct for lawyers, and the ethics of the profession, and his violation of any of them leads to de-listing from the register.

1. General Provisions Regulation Definitions

The terms used in the regulation are crucial for understanding the scope and context in which the provisions are applied. Some key terms include:

System: Refers to the Saudi legal system regulating the practice of the profession in the country.

Regulation: The executive document that clarifies the details and procedures for licensing foreign law firms.

Office: The foreign law firm seeking to obtain a license to practice in the Kingdom.

License: The official permission granted to the office to practice according to Saudi law.

Authorities Responsible for Implementation and Monitoring

The government entities involved in implementing and monitoring this regulation include:

Ministry of Justice: Responsible for regulating and issuing licenses.

Saudi Bar Association: Ensures compliance with professional and ethical standards.

Specialized Administration: A subsidiary within the Ministry of Justice that monitors offices’ compliance with laws and regulations.

Read also about how to enforce a foreign judgment in Saudi Arabia and the legal procedures associated with it, in our detailed analysis available on the Eyad Reda Law Firm website.

Conditions for Obtaining a License Basic Licensing Requirements

To ensure obtaining a license for a foreign law office in Saudi Arabia, several essential conditions must be met:

  1. Compliance with all local Saudi laws and regulations.
  2. No final judgment should have been issued against the office or any of its representatives in a crime involving moral turpitude or dishonesty.
  3. A necessity for a partnership or representation in a globally recognized advanced country.

Documents Required for the License Application

To apply for the license, a set of necessary documents must be prepared and submitted:

  • An official authorization letter for the legal representative to submit the application.
  • Copies of the legal licenses for the main office and any other branches.
  • Resumes of the principal lawyers showing at least 10 years of experience in the profession.
  • Documents proving the international partnership and representation of the office.

3. Requirements After Licensing and Before Practicing Steps for Registration in the Lawyers’ Registry

After obtaining the license, the foreign office must register itself in the Saudi Lawyers’ Registry by following these steps:

Submit a copy of the granted license to the Ministry. Complete the required registration form with all necessary information. Pay the prescribed registration fees.

Requirements to be Met by the Office Before Starting Practice Before the foreign law office begins practicing officially in Saudi Arabia, the following requirements must be met:

Proof of the main headquarters for practicing within the Kingdom. Provision of basic office facilities to ensure the delivery of professional services. Ensuring localization with a specified percentage of Saudi lawyers according to local regulations.

Legal Structure and Scope of Practice Acceptable Legal Structures

To comply with Saudi laws, foreign law offices must adopt one of the following legal forms to practice in the Kingdom:

Professional Company: Must be registered as a professional company with Saudi lawyers enrolled.

Branch of a Foreign Office: Can be a branch of the main foreign law office, provided the appropriate license is obtained.**

Special Requirements for Partnerships with Saudi Lawyers

Partnerships between foreign law offices and Saudi lawyers must comply with the following requirements:

Experience: The Saudi lawyer partner must have at least seven years of experience in the profession.

Representation in Management: Saudi lawyers must represent at least one-quarter of the votes in the board of directors or management board.

5. Temporary Licensing Conditions for Granting Temporary License

A temporary license is granted under specific circumstances and for limited time periods, based on the following conditions:

Exceptional Need: The office must demonstrate the need for this license to undertake specialized or quality projects requiring expertise not available locally.

Ministerial Approval: Approval for the temporary license must be given by the Minister of Justice based on the exceptional circumstances justified for it.

Activities Allowed Under This License

Offices that obtain the temporary license are allowed to engage in the following activities:

Legal Consulting: Providing consultations for specialized projects requiring special expertise.

Limited Participation: Allowed to practice legal activities within the scope of the specified project only, without expanding into other practices.

Legal and Professional Obligations Obligations Incumbent on the Offices

Foreign law offices licensed in Saudi Arabia must comply with the following standards:

Professional and Ethical Standards: Adherence to the highest professional and ethical standards as specified in the Saudi legal system.

Client Handling: Ensuring the provision of legal services efficiently, transparently, and justly to all clients.

Guidelines on Transparency and Reporting Obligations

To ensure transparency, offices must comply with the following guidelines:

Periodic Reports: Submit periodic reports to the Saudi Bar Association covering all activities and operations.

Violation Reporting: Immediate reporting of any actions that violate the applicable laws and regulations.

Penalties and Violations Details of Penalties for Violating the Regulation

Violating the regulatory regulations can lead to the following penalties:

Financial Fines: Imposition of significant financial fines proportional to the size and nature of the violation.

License Suspension: Regulatory bodies can suspend the granted license in the case of serious violations.

Disciplinary and Accountability Procedures Procedures Followed in Case of Violations Include:

Official Investigations: Conducting official investigations to determine the extent of the damage and responsibilities.

Hearing Sessions: Holding hearing sessions to give the office a chance to defend itself.

Recommendation Submission: Based on the investigation results, regulatory bodies submit recommendations regarding penalties or corrective actions.

Read also about the new professional companies law and its impacts on the business environment in Saudi Arabia in our detailed analysis available on the Eyad Reda Law Firm website.