Henzie Healley – An Entrepreneur’s Best Law & Compliance Guide

“Make your lawyer one of your “best business friends”, especially if you have a virtual asset/Web3/blockchain or other regulated business. The UAE prides itself on compliance and adhering to the highest standards of adherence to applicable laws. Its important to the success of your investments/business/endeavors, that you get it right from the beginning but rather later than never (or when it’s too late)” – Says Henzie Healley – the founding partner at The Counsel Services

About Henzie’s Business:

The Counsel Services started in early 2019 and was incepted after praying for a job that I would love. It has grown substantially since then and been through many changes (all for the better), but always been blessed (thanks be to God).

The Counsel Services (TCS) is a boutique legal consultancy and registered Corporate Service Provider (CSP), incorporated in ADGM with both an office in both Abu Dhabi and in Dubai. TCS specializes in corporate commercial legal and CSP services and can handle all manner of corporate commercial work, from advising on setting up, restructuring (esp. with the new corporate tax laws coming into play), M&As, JVs, Franchising… regulated set-ups, virtual asset and web3 related legal services (reg-labs, VARA approvals etc.), legal advice, legal documentation and so on. Many clients use TCS as their virtual in-house legal counsel, advising start-ups, SMEs, multinationals, family offices and even government entities.

Clients often comment that it’s nice to work with a firm that can do it all. Providing legal advice at the same time as proper set-up or structuring advice, assisting with investments, growth, expansion, seizing new opportunities and generally being there for all business-related matters (from a legal perspective – which one could argue is one of the most important perspectives to protect and legitimize a business at any point in its lifespan).

Why compliance is integral to business operations?

Compliance is essential for any business for a number of reasons, the biggest of which is legitimacy and the second biggest of which is the avoidance of hefty fines and other consequences that come from breaching rules, regulations and applicable legislation. Costs aside, a breach of compliance could also damage reputation, cause bankruptcy or cause the company to be liquidated (and these also attach to the person(s) behind the organization). As basics, every woman in business should ensure that they are following correct KYC and onboarding practices, source of fund(s) practices, adhering to applicable employment laws, VAT filings and upcoming corporate tax requirements. They should also have a valid license to operate their business in the UAE and any additional permits and approvals for their business (if necessary). But it’s always best to have a lawyer or compliance firm behind you, so that the burden of staying compliant is overtaken by professionals that know the laws and regulations under which a business is operating (and compliance is part of their job).

Why entrepreneurs should know the law and the legal system?

Again, breaching applicable laws or regulations could have serious consequences which could not only affect the business but the entrepreneur(s) behind them. Its more time consuming and costly to fix a mess later than to have done in properly in the first place. Building a strong foundation from the start not only makes the business operate smoothly and gives the entrepreneur(s) peace of mind, but also makes the business more attractive to potential investors, increases credibility and legitimacy, and can assist in the success of the business because it lowers the risks of something happening that the business/entrepreneur(s) cannot come back from.

What have been some fresh updates to the UAE business law?

We have to consider that DIFC and ADGM have their own companies’ laws. This is in addition to the UAE Companies Law. Therefore, when discussing updates to the laws, we have three legal systems to consider when answering this question but I will focus on the UAE Companies Law. There was a new law issued in 2022 which introduced SPACS to be incorporated as PJSCs (approved by the SCA) and recognized onshore SPVs for the very first time. This came with an abolishment of the requirement to have a 50% local partner for multiple activities, making 100% foreign ownership possible outside of a free zone and there was a reduction in statutory reserve capital required for LLCs. There were various other amendments from what was the previous law, but the one which caught the most attention was the ability to have 100% foreign ownership of an onshore company in the UAE.

Henzie’s message for the readers:

A lot of people shy away from legal, but you just need to find a firm you can work with. We have seen so many legal and compliance issues that could have been easily avoided if a good lawyer had been involved in the first place and the client had gotten the correct advice and then assistance to structure whatever company or transaction they were entering into. This could have protected them and helped them avoid a lot of issues which they ended up facing unnecessarily.

Get in touch with Henzie Healley via LinkedIn