Striving for Excellence in the Middle East

Striving for excellence is the center of what Ghassan does, thinks, practices and delivers.

“Being ethical, professional, honest, knowledgeable, a pioneer, leader and unique in your work are my core values. I have worked on thousands of cases, with hundreds of lawyers, experts, clients and colleagues across my career and the experience I gained after being exposed to all of this, is what led me to be what I am today”, shares Ghassan. 

He shares with us his secrets to winning billion dollar cases, why Arabic is an important language to integrate into the legal sphere, and how to tackle sensitive cases.

What has been your most challenging case yet, and how did you overcome it?

I witnessed many challenging cases throughout my career, yet I can easily select a case that was quite complex yet enjoyable. I represented a Kuwaiti Public Listed company before Abu Dhabi Courts against a Chinese Semi-Governmental company in around 1 billion US dollars’ construction and project development dispute. When approached by the client, he was previously represented by another law firm and had a judgment against him for USD160 million claims and a USD44 million performance guarantee issue.

The dispute was heard before the arbitration tribunal and the local courts in Abu Dhabi and the adverse party was represented by a very strong international law firm and a leading local law firm in Dubai. My team and I applied a totally new strategy and litigation approach that led both the arbitration tribunal and the local courts to dismiss the previous claims and rule in favor of my client for USD60 million. The final outcome of the case was changed drastically in favor of my client.

I always believe that when you break down, analyze and reassess any complex dispute, and have an in-depth understanding of the local laws and the application of international standards of practice, then everything becomes simple and possible. I simply applied what I always believed in, to secure the client’s best interests based on my legal knowledge and experience.  The real challenge was the ability to change the result and the delivery of a positive outcome in favor of my client.

I consider any case or dispute as an unfinished painting. I am the artist and litigation is the art.

You are one of the few litigators who won multi-billion dollar cases for clients and advised on high complex and cross border disputes; can you guide us through your step by step process when working on such cases?

I represented clients before, during, and after the 2008 financial crisis. As a result, I was involved in billions of dollars of cases and disputes. Assessing the early symptoms of the financial crisis prepared me for any future disputes or cases that may happen and thus gave me an advantage over many other law firms in the region.

Meeting the client and gathering the right information and documents is an essential first step. Once there is clarity on the big picture, the right people are chosen to work on the matter, then the work is divided among the team. I take into account all the information received from the client and team, assess the case and draw the strategy. The strategy revolves around the end objective that is agreed with the client and then break it down into short-term objectives done step by step or stage by stage. The process compromises of proper planning, in-depth analysis, consistently monitoring assessment, and control.

I also take into consideration in my work to be responsive, to focus on quality and to deliver.

Moreover, how did you work your way up, in order to accomplish positive results for high net cases?

I am a positive man who always works on things to happen. I promise myself and the client that I will work hard to achieve and to deliver. This summarizes the personal and professional commitment that I practice. I consider any case or dispute as an unfinished painting. I am the artist and litigation is the art. You need to see the big picture, then use your tools to draw the picture and then focus on how you planned and visualized to complete the painting. There will always be barriers, obstacles and deadlines, but determination, consistency, organization and patience, are key elements. I always look to find an acceptable solution for my client irrespective of the dispute amount. I simply search for the solution, find it and apply it, in the same way I used to solve math problems when I was in high school.

I also listen carefully to my clients in order to manage their expectations properly. Serving my clients is the center of my offerings and building the trust is my main focus, because a law firm is a service industry and the service must be done in a perfect way; there are no compromises on this. Trust is everything in our offerings. Part of my job is to educate the client about the local culture and laws and to connect with them in order to build the trust. My measure is always the logical approach and to present the arguments in a simple way and going to the basics of the principles and articles of the law.

One main recommendation is to optimize your skills and ability, whilst trying to seek innovative solutions. Thinking out of the box is a useful strategy: consider every case to be like a puzzle.

What three things would you recommend litigators do when tackling a sensitive case?

One main recommendation is to optimize your skills and ability, whilst trying to seek innovative solutions. Thinking out of the box is a useful strategy: consider every case to be like a puzzle. You need to search for the pieces, put it in the correct place and rejoice over the result. In addition to that, you need to listen, read, analyze, be patient and fight till the end. Enjoy what are you doing and be always on top of your matter or case.

Secondly, what makes a lawyer stand out is the experience, specialty, intelligence and the ability to lead and deliver. The contribution and the investment of the litigator and the efforts exerted in the case are what makes the difference. Forming the right team and working as a team are basic values in any case or dispute.

My final recommendation is to always have the access to the right information and documents, choosing the right legal route from the beginning and presenting your case before the court in a simple, straight to the point manner.

The legal industry, in my experience, has developed significantly and positively in the last 20 years.

How have you seen the legal sphere change over the 23 years you have been practicing?

The legal industry, in my experience, has developed significantly and positively in the last 20 years. On the industry level, I witnessed and experienced the introduction of online legal services to the courts systems, for example, in the UAE: the establishment of many disputes centers, such as, DIAC, ADCCAC & QICCA; the rise of more local lawyers and firms; the increase in the number of female  lawyers; the development of laws like the new arbitration laws in the UAE, KSA and Bahrain; and, the new cybercrime laws and the founding of new common law courts, like the DIFC Courts in Dubai and ADGM in Abu Dhabi.

On the legal level, I have seen the growing need for bilingual lawyers and the increase of the role of Arabic speaking lawyers for international clients and international law firms; at the same time, I have seen the growing demand for Common Law lawyers, for local and regional clients in the region, ever since the English language became the main form of communication in business and alongside the entry of many international law firms. Just to elaborate more, the role of bilingual lawyers gave law firms access to a bigger portion of the legal market and the reach to new clients, as well as enabling local lawyers to change their level of services, either by hiring Common Law lawyers or associating themselves with international law firms. This has been a positive and healthy competition which has since been introduced to the Middle Eastern legal market.

Are there any changes in the Middle East that you are advocating for? How will these changes affect your role, and your clients?

Constant change is imminent. Across my career and based on experience, I can advocate for the following changes in the legal industry in the region: enhancement of the role of experts, specialized lawyers in litigation and bilingual Arabic speaking lawyers.

The legal systems in the Arab countries adopt a concept in litigation cases known as the appointment of court experts, in all of the technical matters that a court is hearing. The expert officially represents the judge and the court, and the outcome of the expert’s role is usually done in a detailed report and is considered a legal document which is accepted by most of the courts. The courts then usually rule based on the expert’s conclusion. Having a professional and well-informed expert appointed in cases is highly crucial. This is why I always make sure that I attend, or my senior team members attend before the experts, since I believe that the case will be decided by the expert.  A specialized team who masters the Arabic language is the winning ticket in dealing with such attendance and submissions. Finally, I advocate for a change in the hiring policy of international law firms in the Middle East to include more local and bilingual Arabic speaking advocates.

Practicing in a consistent way is the natural way for success, because success is a daily practice.

What is the importance of Sharia Law and Arabic in your practice?

The Arabic language is the official language used in all of the courts in the Arab countries and most of the Arab countries, GCC specifically, derive their laws generally from the civil law and Sharia principles. Whereas most of the international law firms in the region and the GCs of international clients come from a common law background, this is where our firm and my practice stands out as having Arabic bilingual lawyers who are experts in both Civil Law and Sharia Law. Thus, CRS Middle East bridges the gap and gives a full understanding of Sharia Laws to the clients. We pride ourselves in being one of the few leading international firms in the region to offer complete services to our clients. So, this where the role of bilingual Arabic native litigators become important, crucial and essential in any dispute or case.

What is the most favorite aspect about your role?

The most important aspect is being a leader, no matter what your position is. My favorite aspect of this is building a litigation practice which involves mainly managing people who come from different backgrounds and cultures. I enjoy organizing and motivating the people who work with me to work together, to achieve certain goals. As a manager I must understand people’s needs and behaviors in order to become an effective leader who can inspire and develop the team. Motivating people means to let them feel safe, respected and valued. In any case and dispute, I always seek to align the people working on the case behind a vision and inspire them to make that vision a reality, and this how you win a case or obtain favorable result for your client. Practicing in a consistent way is the natural way for success, because success is a daily practice.

Another favorite aspect of mine is building litigation teams and departments from scratch. I have done this in my career several times, especially when developing four law firms, one local firm and three international. Every time I accepted the challenge and started with one person, myself, and then I grew and expand the business and the team, which delivered results and budget in less than a year. I believe in investing in people and that every case is a new adventure.

Anything else?

Everything I did through my career was inspired by my late father’s passion for law, which made him a great role model and an amazing lawyer.

Also, I want to thank my family, clients and colleagues at CRS for their endless support.

Ghassan El Daye
Partner
+971 4 246 1903
www.charlesrussellspeechlys.com

 

 

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