LOST IN TRANSLATION
tem he considers near-ideal. “It's not about the laws; it's about the implementation,” he says. When it comes to Qatari courts, unlike certain jurisdictions, the judiciary and the executive are separated and if the laws may seem to extend a higher level of protection to nationals, “it is not to the detriment of foreigners”. Transparency, however, has some ways to go still. “And this is not due to any intention to hide the legal process from the public,” he clarifies, “but more because of lack of resources.” If we wanted, we could enter any court and sit in all day long to listen to the various cases being fought, he says (except in certain cases where the parties can ask for the hearings to be private), however the issue lies in the number of judgments published. “The Court of Cassation publishes select judgments – a landmark ruling that sets a standard in dealing with certain cases, for example. These serve as an important reference for lawyers and the general public while researching precedents. The Ministry of Justice's legal portal, Al Meezan, even translates some of these into English. This is commendable work and one that takes a lot of time and effort. This must continue to increase,” Kabbani insists. This process is important for the constant evolution of laws, as lawyers can identify “judgments issued in relation a grey area of the law or an article that is not properly drafted and approach legislators about improving the same”.
Some laws, more than others, certainly need to be revisited. We are curious about the concerns of his clients, many of whom are undoubtedly members of the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, about the long-anticipated changes in the labour and immigration law. The last we heard, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs had submitted the draft of the law to the chamber and was awaiting its recommendations. Does he expect any resistance from the business community? “There is a real intention to improve existing laws to address some of the expectations of the international community,” Kabbani says diplomatically, “The question is just about when.” A new law doesn't manifest itself in a fortnight and requires diligent consideration of the implications, he contests, especially when it concerns something so sensitive and pervasive. “It will take time to review, to iron out the loopholes and hammer out something that everyone is in agreement on. I can't say if it's taking time because there is a consultation with the larger Qatari community. But the chamber represents most of the businesses in Qatar and this process is very important as it is reflective of the real needs and concerns of the local business community,” he says.
They are probably most wary about attracting and training talent only to lose them to competitors, he feels. But non-compete clauses, which are pretty boilerplate across companies around the world, just seem more drastic here because of the disproportionate expat population and because being out of a job during the non-compete period most certainly means having to leave the country as expats will need a work permit to remain in the country . Nonetheless, the recommendations, when they come, might most likely concern categorisation according to sectors, according to Kabbani. “Like everyone else, I too am waiting to see what happens.”
CONTRACTS DO NOT HAVE TO BE DRAFTED IN ARABIC AND THEY ARE OFTEN DRAFTED IN ENGLISH IN QATAR. HOWEVER IF DISPUTES ARISE AND ARE TO BE DECIDED BY THE QATARI COURTS, ALL CONTRACTS, CORRESPONDENCE AND DOCUMENTS WILL NEED TO BE TRANSLATED INTO ARABIC. ENGLISH LAW CONTRACTS ARE OFTEN COPIED AND USED IN QATAR WITHOUT REAL CONSIDERATION OF THE WAY QATARI LAW WOULD TREAT THE CONCEPTS WHICH MEANS QATARI COURTS CAN TAKE A VERY DIFFERENT VIEW FROM WHAT THE PARTIES INTENDED. THERE ARE NO OFFICIAL TRANSLATIONS OF QATARI LAWS INTO ENGLISH THEREFORE HIGHLY QUALIFIED BILINGUAL LAWYERS AT INTERNATIONAL LAW FIRMS LIKE EVERSHEDS HAVE AN IMPORTANT ROLE TO PLAY. WHILST OBTAINING LEGAL ADVICE IS OFTEN SEEN AS A DELAYING FACTOR WHEN RUSHING TO CLOSE A TRANSACTION, IT CAN BE CRUCIAL TO ENSURE THAT THE PARTIES ARE GETTING THE DEAL AND PROTECTION THEY WANT.