Thursday, December 15, 2011

Career Corner: How to Become an Omani Lawyer

With the Sultanate’s rapid economic development proceeding apace, Oman provides an abundance of opportunities for law firms and lawyers. Recognizing this trend, the Omani government has taken steps to increase the ability of young Omanis to participate in the legal field, by providing scholarships for the study of law domestically and abroad, and by tilting the legal system in ways to raise Omani participation in the legal field. For example, the Ministry of Justice took the decision in 2010 to reserve to Omanis the exclusive capacity to appear and present cases before the Primary Court.

However, in order to ensure that new Omani lawyers will have the requisite experience and expertise to carry out their duties, the Omani government has put in place certain restrictions on entry into the legal profession and qualification as an Omani lawyer. This article provides an overview of the process for becoming an Omani lawyer.

The registration process

The starting point for an Omani aspiring to become a lawyer is to obtain a university degree. Once they have their degree in hand, Omanis wishing to qualify as a lawyer in the Sultanate must go through several steps, the first of which is registration as a trainee with the Ministry of Justice. The applicant will need to present evidence that he or she meets the necessary criteria for registration, such as evidence of a University degree in law or a related discipline, as well as evidence of good conduct
from the Royal Omani Police.

Becoming a trainee

Once registered, the next step is to work in a local law firm as a trainee. A university graduate with an undergraduate degree is required to work a minimum of two years as a trainee, while those who hold a masters degree must work at least one year as a trainee. During this training period, the trainee may not open a law firm in his own name.

It is important to note that experience in an international law firm will not suffice to fulfill the Omani government’s training period requirement. As a practical matter, Omanis who work in international firms do essentially the same type of work, and often get exposed to a much broader range of experiences, than their counterparts at local firms. However, the current position of the Omani government is that only work performed at a local firm counts toward fulfilling the requisite two years of training to become an Omani-qualified lawyer.

Professional obligations and restrictions for qualified Omani lawyers

After completing the training period and qualifying as an Omani lawyer, every Omani lawyer must continue to heed the rules set out in the Advocates Law, promulgated by Royal Decree 108/96 (as amended). In particular, Article 6 of the Advocates Law requires that an Omani lawyer may not work as a minister or other government official, and may not start a business of his own or work for a company, bank or any other person or entity while working in the legal profession (subject to certain exceptions, for example that lawyers may serve in the Majlis al Shura or on the boards of directors of joint stock companies).