Saudi lawyers seek ‘urgent, sustainable’ legal reforms





“We receive far more legal cases of every kind than we are able to handle,” says Ronald E. Pump, legal consultant at The Law Firm of Mohamed Al-Sharif in Riyadh. “Sometimes a client must wait from six months to a year before we are able to present the case to a court for a hearing.”



Laweyers say that once the case is received, there is often confusion as to who is to do exactly what. Most of the approximately 200 law firms, institutions and associations currently in operation in Saudi Arabia are international in scope, adding another dimension to the responsibilities involved: the law firms must understand and be up-to-date with international procedures in order to serve their clients properly and professionally. Initial training is required overseas because content is lacking in the Kingdom, they say.



Dr. Yahya Al-Samaan of The Law Firm of Saleh Al-Hejailan in Riyadh, is very aware of the numerous problems in the legal system at the moment.


“Intensive reforms must take place as soon as possible and it must be sustained.” he states. “This is an urgent matter and it is the judiciary which must come first.”



“Commercial Law must be the immediate priority in order for the Saudi Legal System to function properly and for the benefit of the entire country,” says Dr. Yahya.



“In addition, and of great significance, is that there must be many more judges who are truly qualified and trained. Judges for the Commercial section of the legal system is the need now,” he says.



The Ministry of Justice and the Board of Grievances are expected to present a joint plan to the King later this month for development of the judiciary, which includes computerization to speed up the work of judges. Dr. Abdullah Aal Al-Sheikh, Minister of Justice has said that the plan was drawn up after studying the judicial systems in countries like Bahrain, Egypt and Austria.



There is general agreement that direction, planning and coordination are all substantially missing from many law firms in the country, be they private institutions or associations. Experienced lawyers and newcomers alike struggle to keep afloat within an ever changing set of rules and circumstances brought about by globalization.



Family legal problems are easier to handle rather than the broad range of corporate and business oriented legal problems, the lawyers say. In corporate cases the intentions are often not clear and there is no direct focus on content, making court procedures cloudy for the presiding judge. Hence court cases are too often settled out of court due to endless delays as well as lack of transparency.



Another problem crippling the legal system is that not many Saudis are taking to the law profession.



“Law graduates from local universities and other institutions simply vanish and do not become a part of the legal system which needs them so badly,” says Mohammed Al-Dhabaan of the Mohammed Al-Dhabaan and Associates law Firm in Riyadh. “They go into other fields or stay at home with family…”


One positive aspect is that “there are no major corruption problems within the legal system.” adds Al-Dhabaan.



However, one glaring problem in the legal system is that of the powers of the police. For now they have the authority to be both judge and jury in their routine stops of drivers. They have the power to pass judgment right on the spot and detain a motorist.



Their decisions are final and legal documentation is provided to the motorist as proof of actions taken by the police officer in charge.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *