Mohamed S Abdel Wahab
Nile City Building, South Tower, 8th floor
2005A Cornich El Nil, Ramlet Beaulac.
+20 2 24612147
+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.


Who's Who Legal Arbitration: Lawyers

Professor Dr Mohamed S Abdel Wahab is the chair of private international law and 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 the LCIA’s Arab users’ council; vice chair, IBA arbitration committee; member of the ICDR/AAA international advisory committee; member of the CIMAC court of arbitration; member of the SIAC’s African users’ council; member of the CRCICA’s advisory committee; vice president of the CIArb’s Egypt branch; member of the CIArb’s practice and standards committee; member of the ICCA and the ICCA-QMUL third-party funding task force; member of the international experts group of the Permanent Forum of China Construction Law; fellow of the NCTDR, USA, associate fellow of the Private International Law Centre at Aberdeen University; a CEDR-accredited mediator; and dispute resolution consultant to the World Bank Group.

Professor Dr Abdel Wahab is recognised as a world leading expert on international arbitration, Egyptian and Arab laws, Islamic sharia, and online dispute resolution. He holds over 55 prizes for academic achievement, and is regularly published in learned international journals on issues of private international law, international commercial investment arbitration, construction law and practice, and project finance. He regularly speaks at national and international conferences on international commercial and investment arbitration, telecommunications law, construction law and practice, oil and gas, project finance, online dispute resolution, and private international law.

Professor Dr Abdel Wahab’s expertise in cross-border multi-jurisdictional and highly complex transactions and disputes is versatile and apt. He has acted and appeared in proceedings governed by Bahraini, Egyptian, English, French, Jordanian, Kuwaiti, Libyan, New York, Omani, Pakistani, Qatari, Saudi, Spanish, Swiss, Syrian, Italian and United Arab Emirates law, as well as the general principles of law. He has broad and extensive experience of commercial and investment arbitration and expert determination proceedings across the economic and business spectra.

Professor Dr Abdel Wahab features in Who’s Who Legal: Arbitration as a star arbitration practitioner, and also in the GAR Global Guide for Future Leaders in International Arbitration (2017). Chambers & Partners Global (2017) ranks him as the only star individual in Egypt.

Professor Dr Abdel Wahab is listed on the rosters of many arbitral institutions including CRCICA, DIAC, BCDR-AAA, the European Mediation and Arbitration Organisation (Athens), KLRCA, VIAC, Russian Institute of Modern Arbitration and CIETAC, and has served as sole arbitrator, presiding arbitrator, party appointed arbitrator and counsel in more than 175 cases, including complex, high-value institutional and ad hoc arbitral proceedings involving parties from the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Canada, and the United States.

Professor Dr Abdel Wahab featured in cases under the auspices of the AAA, CRCICA, DIAC, DIFC-LCIA, ICC, ICSID, LCIA, LMAA, SCC, SIAC, as well as ad hoc UNCITRAL proceedings. Throughout his appointments as arbitrator or counsel, he has acted in cases worth several hundred million dollars in the telecommunications, construction, oil and gas, investment, hotel management, transport, insurance, and financial sectors. He has also acted in mega disputes involving state and state-owned entities from different countries.

Owing to Professor Dr Abdel Wahab’s academic and professional background, he has also served as legal expert in more than 23 cases. In this capacity he has advised on aspects of English, Egyptian, Emirati, Bahraini, Omani, Libyan, Kuwaiti, Qatari and Saudi laws in relation to issues of conflict of laws, contract law, international jurisdiction, construction law, telecommunications, hotel management, Islamic sharia, project finance, administrative, commercial and civil laws, and insurance.

WWL says: Mohamed Abdel Wahab is described as "one of the best practitioners in the world today" thanks to his "sharp mind and excellent legal knowledge".

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

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