Professor Dr Mohamed S Abdel Wahab is chair of private international law and professor of international arbitration at Cairo University; founding partner and head of international arbitration at Zulficar & Partners Law Firm; vice president of the ICC International Court of Arbitration; and CIArb trustee for the MENA/Indian subcontinent regions. He is also a member of the LCIA Court; the advisory council of Africa Arbitration; the advisory committee of the CRCICA; the CIMAC court of arbitration; and the AAA-ICDR international advisory committee.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN THE LAW?
I was brought up and nurtured in a legal environment. My grandfather, father and mother were notable legal practitioners and my father was a true role model. I am still guided by his wisdom despite the fact that he drew his last breath in 2009. Having appreciated early on that law is a science of life, I was adamant on pursuing a career in law, and I was always fascinated by upholding justice and the rule of law.
WHAT QUALITIES MAKE A SUCCESSFUL AND LEADING ARBITRATOR?
A leading and successful arbitrator must: be well read; not be predisposed; be fully impartial and independent; have a solid legal base; have a sharp, analytical mind; pay great attention to details, law and facts as pleaded by the parties; and be well versed in the art of efficient conduct of arbitral proceedings and reasoning of awards.
WHAT IMPACT HAS YOUR WORK AND EXPERIENCE AS COUNSEL HAD ON YOUR APPROACH TO PROCEEDINGS WHEN ACTING AS ARBITRATOR?
Acting as counsel in major arbitration proceedings has had a positive impact on my approach to proceedings when sitting as arbitrator. First, it has made me more appreciative of counsel perspectives, choices and approaches to drafting memorials and prosecuting proceedings. Second, it has made me more efficient and understanding when exchanging communications during the course of the arbitral proceedings. Third, it has given me invaluable insight into counsel mindset and tactics, which has proved very useful during hearings and drafting awards. Fourth, it has made me appreciate the importance of not being predisposed or wedded to a specific approach, legal concept and/or position. Finally, it has enabled me to fully appreciate the different roles of party-appointed arbitrators and counsel.
WHAT DID YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT SETTING UP YOUR OWN LAW FIRM?
As one of the founding partners of Zulficar & Partners, I very much enjoyed and valued the collegial work and effort that we, as founding partners, put in to establish a firm that is now recognised as a leading institution in the region and beyond. Working towards building an unbreakable covalent and symbiotic bond between partners, lawyers and staff is indeed a source of immense joy and a true pillar of success.
I should also mention that I very much enjoyed building the firm’s arbitration practice and positioning it as a world-class group. The joy of bringing together, mentoring, training and nurturing young and talented practitioners, who I am sure will contribute to shaping the future of arbitration in Arab and African contexts and beyond, has given me unparalleled joy. Nothing compares to contributing to others and investing in young talent, and witnessing how they blossom and mature into future leaders of the field.
HOW HAS THE PRACTICE OF INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION EVOLVED SINCE YOU FIRST BEGAN YOUR CAREER?
The practice of international arbitration is in a constant state of flux and the field has indeed changed over the years – especially in the 20 years since I started my career. International arbitration has become more complex, more sophisticated, more demanding and, increasingly, more diverse and inclusive. In terms of players and practitioners, more attention is indeed given to the younger generation and newcomers to the field. The diversity pledge has contributed to this, but much remains to be done across the diversity spectrum. In terms of the process, it has become more procedurally entrenched, streamlined and there is a proliferation of guidelines, policies and practices aimed at harmonising the conduct of the proceedings.
Moreover, international arbitration has become much more complicated and exceedingly more sophisticated in relation to various factors. These include: disclosures and conflicts of interest for the purpose of arbitral appointments; the prosecution of proceedings as counsel, and the level of intervention and participation of in-house counsel and clients; the rise of a fourth generation of highly specialised practitioners in sector-specific disputes; the integration and use of technology in the conduct and prosecution of proceedings; the drafting and reasoning of awards; the reconsideration of the requirements of due process, confidentiality and transparency; the legislative and judicial trends in support of international arbitration; the proliferation of publications, decisions and materials tackling all aspects of international arbitration, along with an increase in comparative and interdisciplinary research; and, finally, the increasing scepticism towards the status quo of the ISDS system and the practice of international arbitration therein.
With such changes, complexities and sophistication, competition has all the more become intense and the field has become much more demanding. It is no longer sufficient to be a generalist to practice arbitration on an international level; one must develop notable expertise and a unique set of soft and hard skills to have an edge in such a highly competitive field.
AS HEAD OF THE FIRM’S INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION GROUP, HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE IT DEVELOP OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?
As head of the firm’s international arbitration group, I am committed to sustaining its excellence and maintaining it as a world leading practice. My goal is to develop and build an A-team of talented practitioners who can contribute to the development of international arbitration nationally, regionally and internationally.
WHAT IS THE BEST PIECE OF CAREER ADVICE YOU HAVE RECEIVED?
The best piece of career advice is: build a solid skill set, work hard, never stop learning, and never overestimate yourself or underestimate opposing counsel. Also, let your work speak for you, so that you do not need to speak about yourself.
WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL BE THE GREATEST CHALLENGE FACED BY THE GENERATION OF ARBITRATION PRACTITIONERS BEHIND YOU?
Simply put, the greatest challenge facing the younger generations is twofold: first, the accelerated integration of information and communication technologies in international arbitration and its impact on the practice; and second, extreme competition.
Mohamed Abdel Wahab is "a leader in the space" who is "at the top of the market". He is described as "a star" who offers "practical advice and a tireless approach" to disputes in Egypt and beyond.
Prof Dr Abdel Wahab is the founding partner and head of international arbitration at Zulficar & Partners law firm, Egypt.
He is the chair of private international law and professor of international arbitration at Cairo University; vice president of the ICC International Court of Arbitration; member of the LCIA Court and the LCIA’s Arab Users’ Council; president of CIArb’s Egypt Branch; member of the CIArb’s board of management and practice and standards committee; member of the CRCICA advisory committee; member of the CIMAC Court of Arbitration; member of the AAA-ICDR international advisory committee; member of the SIAC’s African Users’ Council committee; vice chair of the IBA Arab regional forum; president of the advisory board of the American Bar Association – Rule of Law Initiative in Egypt; member of the board of advisers of Arbitrator Intelligence; ambassador of the International Forum of Professional Mediators (FIMEP); member of the advisory council of Africa Arbitration; CEDR-accredited mediator; member of the editorial board of the ClArb’s Arbitration Journal; and member of ICCA and the International Arbitration Institute.
Professor Dr Abdel Wahab is also associate fellow of the Centre of Private International Law (Aberdeen University); fellow of the Center for Technology and Dispute Resolution (University of Massachusetts); fellow of the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law (SHUPL); and international expert member of the Permanent Forum of China Construction Law.
Professor Dr Abdel Wahab is co-editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Online Dispute Resolution (IJODR), member of the editorial advisory board of the Journal of Enforcement of Arbitration Awards (Juris Publishing), member of the editorial board of the IBA Journal of Construction Law International and co-editor of the leading treatise Online Dispute Resolution: Theory and Practice (2012), which received the CPR Award for the Best Published Dispute Resolution Work (2013). He has appeared as counsel, arbitrator and expert in more than 175 arbitrations (ad hoc and institutional proceedings, under the AAA, CRCICA, DIAC, DIFC-LCIA, ICC, ICSID, JCAA, LCIA, LMAA, SCC, SIAC and ad hoc UNCITRAL rules), and holds over 55 prizes for academic achievement.
Professor Dr Abdel Wahab is recognised as a world leading expert on international arbitration, international law; Egyptian, Arab and African law; Islamic shariah law; and online dispute resolution and comparative 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, Moroccan, New York, Omani, Pakistani, Qatari, Saudi, Spanish, Swiss, Syrian, Italian and UAE laws, as well as the general principles of law.
Professor Dr Abdel Wahab received the 2018 ASA International Arbitration Advocacy Prize and was voted the Legal Practitioner of 2017 by LAW Magazine.
Professor Dr Abdel Wahab features in WWL: Arbitration as a star arbitration practitioner. He features in the GAR Global Guide to Future Leaders in International Arbitration (2017 and 2018); WWL Thought Leaders: International Arbitration (2017 and 2018); and the list of 100 African arbitration practitioners in published by I-ARB (Africa). He was also selected by Africa Arbitration as the African Personality of the Month for June 2018.
In 2017 and 2018 Chambers & Partners Global ranked Professor Dr Mohamed Abdel Wahab as the only Star individual in Egypt. The 2017 edition stated: “The ‘top-notch’ Mohamed Abdel Wahab retains his position as a distinguished leader in the market after receiving a wealth of praise from peers and clients alike.”
WWL (2017-2018) says: Mohamed Abdel Wahab is “one of the best practitioners in the world today” thanks to his “sharp mind and excellent legal knowledge”.
The Legal 500 (2014-2016) stated that Mohamed Abdel Wahab is “one of the brightest of his generation, a strong thinker and excellent advocate who knows arbitration inside out”.
Professor Dr Abdel Wahab is listed on the rosters of many arbitral institutions including the ADCCAC (Abu Dhabi), AIAC (formerly KLRCA) (Malaysia), BCDR-AAA (Bahrain), CIETAC (China), CRCICA (Egypt), DIAC (Dubai), KCAB (South Korea), and the Arbitration Center of the Russian Institute of Modern Arbitration (Russia). He has served as sole arbitrator, presiding arbitrator, party-appointed arbitrator and counsel in cases, including complex, high-value institutional and ad hoc arbitral proceedings involving parties from the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Canada and the United States.
Throughout his appointments as arbitrator or counsel, he acted in multimillion-dollar cases 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.
Mohamed Abdel Wahab is highlighted as "a leading heavyweight construction law specialist whose analytical skills are second to none".
Mohamed S Abdel Wahab is the founding partner and head of international arbitration, construction and oil and gasat Zulficar & Partners, Egypt. He is a member of the LCIA Court; the CIMAC Court of Arbitration; the AAA-ICDR international advisory committee; the advisory committee of the CRCICA; the advisory council of Africa Arbitration; the SIAC’s African Users’ Council; the ICODR’s governing board; Arbitrator Intelligence’s board of advisers; and CIArb’s board of management (2018) and practice and standards committee (2011–2018). He is president of the advisory board of the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative in Egypt, and CIArb’s Egypt branch (2018); and vice president of the ICC International Court of Arbitration and the IBA arbitration committee (2015–2018). His other roles include chair of the private international law department at Cairo University; vice chair of the IBA Arab regional forum; trustee for the CIArb’s MENA/Indian subcontinent regions; dean of the Africa Arbitration Academy; and CEDR-accredited mediator.
Professor Dr Abdel Wahab is associate fellow of the Centre of Private International Law (Aberdeen University, UK); and fellow of the Center for Technology and Dispute Resolution (University of Massachusetts) and the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law (SHUPL), China. He is an international expert member of the Permanent Forum of China Construction Law, and an editorial board member of journals including the IBA Journal of Construction Law International and the ClArb’s Arbitration Journal.
Professor Dr Abdel Wahab has successfully negotiated, reviewed and drafted numerous construction contracts including design agreements, civil engineering works, turnkey contracts, contracts for mechanical works, etc, for both contractors and employers, and has handled high-value complex construction disputes and claims involving multiple parties in both ad hoc and institutional contexts. His expertise spans disputes involving, without limitation, multiple and cross claims; variation orders; concurrent delays; time extensions; liquidated damages; defects and completion certificates; force majeure; hardship; warranties; financing; insurance; and security.
He has taught construction law and practice courses, and has conducted trainings on FIDIC forms of contracts and disputesarising thereunder. Professor Dr Abdel Wahab has been invited to contribute to the Global Arbitration Review Guide to Construction Arbitration (2017 and 2018). He is also the co-author of the monograph entitled “Practicing FIDIC in Civil Law Jurisdictions – Application of Time and Additional Payment Provisions” (2018).Chambers & Partners (2016) has acknowledged Professor Dr Abdel Wahab’s significant experience in construction disputes.
Professor Dr Abdel Wahab is recognised as a world-leading arbitrator and arbitration practitioner on international investment and commercial arbitration; international construction; telecommunications, and oil and gas disputes; Arab and African laws; Islamic shariah law; and online dispute resolution. He regularly publishes articles in on issues of private international law; international commercial and investment arbitration; construction law; oil and gas; and project finance. Professor Dr Abdel Wahab is listed on the rosters of many arbitral institutions including the ADCCAC (Abu Dhabi), AIAC (Malaysia), BCDR-AAA (Bahrain), CIETAC (China), CRCICA (Egypt), DIAC (Dubai), KCAB (South Korea), and the Arbitration Center of the Russian Institute of Modern Arbitration.
Professor Dr Abdel Wahab has served as sole arbitrator, presiding arbitrator, co-arbitrator, legal expert and counsel in more than 190 cases, including complex, high-value institutional and ad hoc arbitral proceedings involving parties from the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Canada and the United States. He has featured in cases under the auspices of the AAA, ADCCAC, CRCICA, DIAC, DIFC-LCIA, ICC, ICSID, LCIA, LMAA, SCC and SIAC, and indisputes governed by the laws of Bahrain, Egypt, England and Wales, France, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, New York, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi, Spain, Switzerland, Syria, Italy and the UAE, as well as the general principles of law.
Professor Dr Abdel Wahab is regularly recognised and ranked as a world-leading dispute resolution practitioner in all leading legal directories. He features in I-ARB’s list of 100 leading African arbitration practitioners and was named as Africa Arbitration’s first “African Personality of the Month” (June 2018). He received the 2018 ASA International Arbitration Advocacy Prize; was voted the top legal practitioner of 2017 by LAW magazine; accepted the GAR Award for Zulficar & Partners’ work as the leading North African and Mediterranean arbitration practice (2017); nominated for 2013 and 2014 GAR Award for the Best Arbitration Lecture, and recently nominated for the GAR Award for Best Arbitration Lecture 2018.
In Chambers Global (2016–2018), Mohamed Abdel Wahab is the only “Star” individual for dispute resolution (arbitration) in Egypt. He is also recommended as a leading lawyer in Who’s Who Legal: Construction (2017–2018) and The Legal 500 (2017–2018).