Starting Up Right: Three (Legal) Tips For Entrepreneurs In The UAE

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When starting a business, your priority is (often) product development and customer acquisition. Hiring a lawyer will be somewhere at the bottom of the list, which is understandable at some level- after all, working with lawyers can be daunting, especially if you have never done it before.


Affordability is another issue- some entrepreneurs think that lawyers are prohibitively expensive, which certainly is the case for most big law firms, whose target customers are multinational corporations, for which their service offering is structured. So unfortunately, it does take a few business mistakes (and a few losses) before an entrepreneur realizes the value that a good business lawyer can add to their venture.

The good news, however, is that in the last year, we had a couple of new entrants into the UAE legal services market specifically targeting SME’s and startups as clients, which is, of course, a welcome development. More market players mean a higher quality of services, and lower prices for consumers.

As the founder of, a legal resources portal dedicated to supporting the startup and SME community in the UAE, here are my top three legal tips for entrepreneurs starting up a business here:

1. Document everything Document all of your agreements in writing, be it agreements with your co-founders, investors, contractors or customers. Discuss the expectations from the outset, negotiate and agree on roles, responsibilities and deliverables. 90% of disputes relate to “who promised to do what” under a contract, so proceed with that in mind.

2. Be compliant with regulations Depending on the nature of your startup, you will be subject to a number of regulations. Do your homework to understand the regulatory environment, meet with the regulators at events, follow their newsletters. Non-compliance can be very costly.

3. Hire the right lawyer Engage a good business lawyer who understands the entrepreneurial environment before problems arise. Find a lawyer you can trust and who you enjoy working with, look for that “personal fit.” Build a relationship with your lawyer. We can be rather helpful in making introductions to investors or potential customers.

Related: A New Webinar Series Aims To Help UAE Entrepreneurs Handle Business Disputes Better

Irina Heaver

Written By

Irina Heaver is Partner and Head of Corporate & Commercial at Fitche & Co., and the founder of With over 13 years of experience, Irina specializes in the broad spectrum of commercial and corporate work including M&A, corporate restructurings and governance issues, as well as complex joint ventures and strategic alliances. Having served in-house in senior legal roles with multinationals in oil & gas, construction and maritime industries, Irina has developed a thorough expertise in heavy industrial sectors, such as energy, oil & gas, EPC and engineering, capital and infrastructure projects. Over the past five years, Irina has been focusing on emerging technology being introduced or developed alongside the traditional business models. She regularly advises in relation to all aspects of emerging businesses, including regulatory framework, capital-raising as well as matters relating to contractual arrangements such as software and technology licensing, consultancy, and contracts for supply and maintenance of hardware and equipment.