Strategic Research Sponsor of the American Bar Association's Section of International LawThe Queen's Award for Enterpise 2012

Mohamed S Abdel Wahab
Office:
Nile City Building, South Tower
2005 A Cornich ElNil
11221
City:
Cairo
Country:
Egypt
Tel:
+20 2 24612147
Fax:
+20 2 24612165

Questions and Answers:

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders - Arbitration

Mohamed Abdel Wahab is professor and chair of private international law (Cairo University); founding partner and head of international arbitration at Zulficar & Partners Law Firm; vice president of the ICC International Court of Arbitration; court member of the LCIA; president of LCIA’s Arab Users’ Council; court member of the CIMAC; vice president of the IBA arbitration committee; vice president of CIArb (Egypt); member of the CRCICA advisory committee; member of AAA-ICDR international advisory committee; and member of the the SIAC African Users’ Council’s Committee. He is also a CEDR-accredited mediator and dispute resolution consultant at the World Bank. He has acted as counsel and served as arbitrator, counsel and expert in more than 172 ad hoc and institutional proceedings. He features in Who’s Who Legal: Arbitration as the star arbitration practitioner for Egypt.

What inspired you to focus your practice on international arbitration?

My profound admiration of the law; appreciation of challenging situations; joy in intellectual reasoning; aspiration to make a difference; and firm belief in the rule of law, and that justice delayed is justice denied, top the list of inspiring motivations that made me focus my practice on international arbitration.

What case most sticks in your mind and why?

Actually, two cases top the list, one as counsel and the other as arbitrator.

As counsel, we were instructed very late to represent a client in ad hoc proceedings in London under the English Arbitration Act and the contract was a sale of goods contract governed by English law. The case commenced 11 months prior to our instruction and the client was not represented. The claimant was an English company which instructed a leading international firm, and the sole arbitrator was nominated by the claimant. We just got instructed a couple of months prior to the rendering of the award and we filed a submission that changed the case completely, and we won the arbitration and secured an award for costs. To me this was an unforgettable win in a very challenging case that everyone thought was a total loss. 

As arbitrator, I acted as presiding arbitrator in an oil and gas case where both co-arbitrators had diametrically different views and would not communicate or speak to each other, and the parties were highly litigious to the extent that the earlier presiding arbitrator resigned and the case was stalled. I was then appointed to replace the president who resigned and the case proceeded to an award that was unanimously signed with my co-arbitrators without compromises, and surprisingly complied with by the highly litigious parties.

What advice would you give to young lawyers looking to sit as arbitrators in the future?

Work hard; enjoy what you do; never give up; be patient; let your work and intellect speak for you; and be confident, but never develop an inflated pride or an oversized ego. He who speaks without modesty will find it difficult to make his words good.

As head of the firm’s international arbitration group what are your main priorities over the coming year for the firm’s strategy?

Obviously, our priorities are to maintain our success record; maintain our leading position in the market; invest in the younger generation of lawyers; and ultimately make it to the top 30 leading arbitration firms worldwide. We are also focused on building a new generation of transnational Egyptian legal practitioners who appreciate the power of knowledge and the role of the rule of law.

What are the greatest challenges currently facing lawyers in the region?

The greatest challenges facing lawyers practising arbitration in the region are: (i) the relative scarcity of qualified arbitrators and counsel who truly understand the nuts and bolts of international arbitration; (ii) the ability to properly and ably prosecute cases in English and Arabic languages; (iii) keeping up to date with developments and best practices in international arbitration; and (iv) the uncertain trends of the judiciaries and courts and the scarcity of judges who specialise in cases involving international arbitration awards and proceedings.

As an independent law firm, how does Zulficar & Partners maintain its position in an international market?

We, at Zulficar & Partners, invest a lot in our lawyers and we see them as our assets. We also do our best to maintain high ethical standards and outstanding quality services to our clients. We also distinguish ourselves as precedent setters and innovative strategists with a leading edge on the laws of the MENA region.

Where, in your opinion, does the future of the practice area lie?

While the future of international arbitration may appear uncertain to many, I am of the view that international arbitration will remain the leading dispute resolution mechanism, yet it will undergo material transmogrification as it evolves over time. I also expect a rise in the global need for a select group of arbitrators with focused sector-specific expertise in disputes involving, inter alia, telecommunications, IT, financial derivatives and products, innovative construction industries, aviation and space, water and renewables. There will also be a rise in the integration of technology in dispute resolution processes, with online dispute resolution proliferating. The way cases will be prosecuted by counsel will also change allowing for lesser time and shortened written submissions with a possible regression in reliance on witness testimony given the increasing studies on the relatively failing memories of witnesses.  

Given the development of regional arbitral centres, what advice would you offer to regional centres to grow in sophistication and compete globally?

We are indeed witnessing an accelerated growth in establishing local and regional arbitration centres. However, the challenge facing such centres will be their continuity and ability to compete. My view is that only regional centres that are able to establish and maintain credible reputation will continue. However, they will need to up their game by adopting proper institutional frameworks; recruiting able and experienced staff; developing sector and region-specific expertise; bringing on board leading regional and international arbitration practitioners; and adopting state-of-the-art innovative arbitration rules that are inclusive of all procedures needed to cater for procedural anomalies and the ensuing sophistication.

Biographies:

Who's Who Legal Arbitration: Lawyers

Mohamed S Abdel Wahab is chair of private international law and a professor of dispute resolution at Cairo University; founding partner and head of international arbitration at Zulficar & Partners Law Firm; vice president of the ICC International Court of Arbitration; court member of the LCIA; president of LCIA's Arab Users' Council; court member of the CIMAC, vice president of the IBA arbitration committee; vice president of the Egypt branch of the CIArb; chair of the CIArb's technology committee; member of the CIArb's practice and standards committee; member of the advisory committee of the CRCICA; member of the international advisory committee of the AAA-ICDR; and member of the ICCA, IAI and the SIAC African users’ council’s committee. Professor Dr Abdel Wahab is also a CEDR-accredited mediator; a dispute resolution consultant to the World Bank Group; and an associate member of the Centre of Private International Law at Aberdeen University.

He has acted as presiding arbitrator, arbitrator, counsel and expert in more than 145 ad hoc and institutional proceedings. These include complex, high-value institutional and ad hoc arbitral proceedings, involving parties from the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Canada and the US, held under the auspices of the AAA, CRCICA, DIAC, ICC, ICSID, DIFC-LCIA, LCIA, LMAA, SCC and SIAC, as well as ad hoc UNCITRAL proceedings. He has appeared in mega disputes involving state and state-owned entities. In 2013 and 2014 he was nominated for the GAR Award for best arbitration-related speech.

Professor Dr Abdel Wahab features in Who's Who Legal: Arbitration and is listed as a star individual in Chambers and Partners Global (2016). He also features in The Legal 500 (2013-2016).

WWL says: Mohamed Abdel Wahab impresses all he works with: "I was cross-examined by him and he did a great job,” said one interviewee. “He really earned my respect – he is a great asset to the Middle Eastern arbitration community."

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Arbitration which can be purchased from our Shop.

Who's Who Legal Arbitration: Future Leaders - Partners

Mohamed S Abdel Wahab is chair of private international law and a professor of dispute resolution at Cairo University; founding partner and head of international arbitration at Zulficar & Partners Law Firm; vice president of the ICC International Court of Arbitration; court member of the LCIA; president of LCIA's Arab Users' Council; court member of the CIMAC; member of the international advisory committee of the AAA-ICDR;  vice-president of the IBA arbitration committee; member of the SIAC’s African Users’ Council’s Committee; vice president of the Egypt branch of the CIArb; chair of the CIArb's technology committee; member of the CIArb's practice and standards committee; member of the advisory committee of the CRCICA; and member of the ICCA and the IAI. Professor Dr Abdel Wahab is also a CEDR-accredited mediator; a dispute resolution consultant to the World Bank Group; and an associate member of the Centre of Private International Law at Aberdeen University.

He has acted as counsel and expert, and served as arbitrator and presiding arbitrator in more than 145 ad hoc and institutional proceedings. These include complex, high-value institutional and ad hoc arbitral proceedings involving parties from the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Canada and the US, in cases held under the auspices of the AAA, CRCICA, DIAC, ICC, ICSID, DIFC-LCIA, LCIA, LMAA, SCC and SIAC, as well as ad hoc UNCITRAL proceedings. He has appeared in mega disputes involving state and state-owned entities. In 2013 and 2014 he was nominated for the GAR Award for best arbitration-related speech.

Professor Dr Abdel Wahab features in Who's Who Legal: Arbitration and is listed as a star individual in Chambers & Partners Global (2016). He also features in The Legal 500 (2014-2016), where clients and peers consider him “one of the brightest of his generation, a strong thinker and excellent advocate who knows arbitration inside out”.

WWL says: Mohamed Abdel Wahab impresses all he works with: "I was cross-examined by him and he did a great job; he really earned my respect" says one interviewee. "He is a great asset to the Middle Eastern arbitration community."

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Arbitration which can be purchased from our Shop.

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Nominees have been selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and private practice lawyers worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.

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