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May 11, 2009

Meeting and event planners told to get their paperwork in order

“The biggest myth in the UAE is that you don’t need a contract.” This was the warning given to a gathering of meeting and event planners at the recent Corporate Event Planners forum co-organised by IIR Middle East, Sourceme and meetme.


The forum, held at Bussola at The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Spa on March 18, saw some 50 meetings and events professionals come together for networking and education.


Lara Haider from The Rights Lawyers - a boutique law firm catering exclusively to creative industries such as music, entertainment and event management – gave a presentation on contracting and the events industry. She told the forum that the prevailing idea in the Middle East that you can ‘just shake on it’ has become dangerously outdated, particularly given the uncertainly in today’s financial climate. “When the credit crunch hit a lot of events were cancelled and the issues arising from that have been enormous,” said Haider. “People have incurred huge losses because contracts are not in place.”


Due to the nature of the legal system in the region, Haider added that litigation was not a preferable option. “Court proceedings here are lengthy, protracted and costly. You can have a difficult time proving things in court. It’s not like in the US - the courts here will not award high damages or compensation. Plus judges don’t like to make decisions on their own; they refer it to the experts, so it will take time. If you take a case to court I’d say you could be looking at a cost of AED300,000 (US$80,000) and a waste of a year.”


With such unappealing prospects should anything with your event not go to plan, Haider advised the assembled event planners to ensure that all contracts are watertight with a clause in place for every eventuality: “You have to think, what if something goes wrong - and put in for the plan B. Everything that you agree to – put it in the contract. Your contract will save you, it’s your friend”


As well as the contract, Haider added that when organising events in Dubai it was crucial for planners to ensure they had all the right permits and permissions in place before the event took place. “There are certain rules you have to follow here: for example if you do an outdoor event you need to get approval from the municipality and you might need the Dubai Police or the Fire Brigade to be there. If you are doing a raffle you have to get approval from the Dubai Economic Department (DED) and make sure someone is there on the day to make the draw. If you do an event online, you have to get approval from the DED.”


For any out of the ordinary events which might require special permits Haider advised that it was always best to check with the DED first. “They are the first port of call. They will guide you through the process, and tell you what forms you need are and what the payments are.”


In order to ensure that contracts were watertight, Haider advised that event planners sought the advice of a professional law firm and included this in their budget for the event. “Our law firm tends to give companies a template contract depending on the nature of their business. You can use this time and time again, and alter it depending on the specifics. The cost ranges from AED7,500 to AED12,000 (US$2,000 – US$3,200) for a standard contract, but if I was drafting a contract for a company that brings in talent this would cost around AED25,000 (US$6,800) as there’s a lot that comes into play.”


She added: “If you think that you can download from the internet, forget about it – a contract must be specific and finely drafted.” 


Top Tips:


1. Make sure you budget for the contract 

2. If you don’t understand it get a lawyer to explain it to you

3. Whatever you do don’t just print one off the internet – it won’t be watertight!

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