Graduates of the law department of Dar Al-Hekma College with faculty members. — Al-Watan photo
Women graduates with legal degrees tend to search for jobs in legal-counseling offices, companies and banks because they are not allowed to apply for a license to practice law in courts.
They are allowed to act as legal representatives of women in family cases in courts, but not as lawyers.
Although there is an increasing need for female lawyers to defend the increasing number of women’s cases such as divorce, custody and inheritance, it is still difficult for female lawyers to apply for a license to practice law.
The Ministry of Justice has said it will grant licenses to female lawyers to practice law, in accordance with regulations followed in legal courts, but the decision has not been issued yet.
Dr. Wahi Farouq Lugman, Chairperson of Legal Studies Department of Dar Al-Hekma College in Jeddah, told Al-Watan Arabic daily that the graduation of the first law class of female students from the college was a huge achievement that will help convince authorities to give female lawyers licenses to practice law.
“Female lawyers are allowed to defend their clients before courts as legal representatives, but they are still waiting for the Ministry of Justice to issue a decision allowing them to apply for law licenses so that they can start legal-counseling offices in their names,” Dr. Lugman said.
Dr. Lugman dedicated her time to setting up the first independent law department of its kind in the Kingdom, which is not affiliated with another college.
If Dar Al-Hekma College gets the status of a university, the law department will become an independent college, she said.
Dr. Lugman said that she conducted a study to design comprehensive curricula for this specialization in 2004 after forming a committee which included senior legal counselors in the Arab world. “I finished designing the curricula in 2006. When the Ministry of Higher Education’s approval was obtained, the law department started to welcome applications.”
Dr. Qaisar Mutaweh, a lawyer, told Al-Watan Arabic daily that female lawyers practice law at legal-counseling offices; they draft legal documents for male lawyers, write contracts for companies and offer counseling services.
They can work in legal departments of banks and companies until licenses to practice law are issued, Dr. Mutaweh added.
“The situation in the Kingdom is that we have 1,500 officially male licensed lawyers while there are 10,000 unlicensed male legal representatives who do not hold law degrees,” the lawyer added.
Saba Nassir, a fresh law department graduate, expressed confidence that female lawyers will be granted licenses to practice law and stand before a judge.
“Legally speaking, unlicensed male representatives should not practice law,” she said. “Their role as representatives should be restricted to dealing with cases related to sale and purchase, not legal cases, which require professional lawyers,” she said.
Reem Al-Basri, another law graduate, said most cases of female clients are related to family matters such as divorce. These cases require female lawyers who can understand the suffering of their female clients, she said.
Sheikh Nasr Al-Yomni, a judge of Jeddah General Court, said no religious text bans women from working as lawyers.
“It is permissible for women to work as lawyers, just like men, as long as they have a college degree and are qualified,” he said.
“Lawyers are only issued licenses when they complete three years of training at a legal-counseling office. This condition will be applied to women as well.”
Female attorneys are allowed to represent up to three clients at a time. – SG