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01/04/14

Saudi Arabia Gets Its First All-Women Law Firm



The international legal industry witnessed a landmark in its history as last week Saudi Arabia saw the birth of its first all-women law firm. In a traditionally male dominated society ruled by Sharia law, this change was as surprising, as it is welcome. The law firm was launched in Jeddah two months after Bayan Mahmoud Al Zahran, along with three others, became the first women to receive law licenses in Saudi Arabia.

Zahran told the media that her law firm will be fighting for the rights of Saudi women and will relate with their issues in court - something male Saudi lawyers find it difficult to understand or tackle. She said, "I believe women lawyers can contribute a lot to the legal system. This law firm will make a difference in the history of court cases and female disputes in the Kingdom. I am very hopeful and thank everyone who supported me in taking this historical step."

Clarifying that the law firm would be dealing with clients of both genders and not only women clients, Zahran said, "Our activity is not restricted to cases involving only women. Saudi Arabia's legal system treats men and women equally and a lawyer has the right to represent men and women."

The launch of the law firm was attended by prominent members from NGOs including Mazen Batterjee, the vice president of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce. Batterjee emphasized the need for female attorneys to always wear a hijab while in court and submit matters before Sharia law Saudi courts.

Bayan Zahran, Jihan Qurban, Sarra Al Omari and Ameera Quqani became the first women lawyer to receive law licenses in Saudi Arabia in October this year, after Saudi Arabia lifted the country's ban on female law graduates from being allowed to practice as attorneys. Pursuant to the change, the status of the concerned women lawyers was changed from legal consultants to attorneys.

One of the most significant points in the lifting of the ban was that Saudi authorities did not impose any limits on the field of law where women may practice, though initially, the Saudi justice ministry had planned to allow women lawyers only in family status cases. Also conditions for obtaining a law license remain the same both for men and women - a university degree in law and three years of training.

Currently, every adult woman in Saudi, including the attorneys mentioned in this article are required to register a close male relative as her guardian, and he is authorized to make many decisions on behalf of the woman including her right to travel, her right to start a business, and right to study at a university. Saudi women are also prohibited from driving and required to cover themselves in the public.


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