Interviewing a Transnational Lawyer
An Interview with a Lawyer
Mohamed Zaher (MZ) is a lawyer as well as Chairman of a law firm that handles and advises US and non-US clients in international trade matters and litigation. A few days back, I contacted and interviewed him by asking some pertinent questions related to international law. He responded positively and threw light on certain burning matters, here are excerpts:
Que.1: What kind of law do you practice and why did you choose it?
MZ: For the last two and a half decades, I have been practicing international, transactional law and arbitration. I have specialized in international mergers and acquisitions by foreign as well as US companies. My work also includes giving advice to MNCs on compliance issues related to corruption, auditing and privacy. During early 1980s, I got an opportunity in pro bono work in Africa with the help of US State Department where I taught government officials about anti-corruption issues. As my career evolved and according to my skill-set, I concentrated on international arbitration and transnational business transaction. After some years, I was approached by law firm and made me a counsel regarding multitude of international deal that involved US and foreign parties. After that, I decided to go on my own and reached out to find who could use our services.
Que. 2: Was your journey so far intellectually challenging? If yes, how?
MZ: After I graduated, I could not find any international law positions available, so, I had to work legal service poverty lawyer. As I gained experience with the practice, today I find my area of expertise as intellectually challenging because the type of work that I do is much broader in scope than the other lawyers do. Apart from the knowledge of law, my work requires good language skills, cultural insight, legal talent and proficient communication skills for explaining the nuances to my clients. It has kept me sharp and connected and on a daily basis I learn something new. When I began working, I did not have a predefined career path so I had to study both arbitration and M&A. I work hard and final both of these specializations fit into my skill-set. Gradually, my work allowed me to use a variety of skills such as negotiating the shareholder’s agreements, interpreting the terms and conditions of sale, all the legal needs of subsidiaries and MNCs. So, I will have to accept that the kind of journey that I took so far has been indeed an intellectually challenging.
Que3. What do you want to say to those who want to pursue a career like yours?
MZ: My first advice to the students of law, who want to take up a career in international law, is that they are needed to learn how to reason and how to be creative in law so that they could effectively interpret the laws for their clients. In this particular field, you should be open to various cultures and be flexible towards political, sociological and economic issues regarding the clients. Sometimes, an issue that you would be dealing with may involve more than a legal aspect so in this scenario you will have to consider all the possible implications of the issue. What I want to focus on is that an international lawyer needs to possess a whole robust set of legal skills and talent. So, if you want to cross the borders and pursue such a career, you should be able to deal with different people, their ideologies as well as the rules of law that are applicable in those countries.
Ques. 4: You are associated with a number of institutions worldwide. What does it bring to you?
MZ: I have been a member of the International Department of the American Bar Association (ABA) and also sat with the members of Board of Directors of ABA. I am also a member of ABA Center for Human Rights presently. With this involvement and relationship, I successfully inculcated management skills, legal expertise and also was able to establish contacts with many experts in the field of law from around the world. During late 2000s, I got an opportunity to lead a delegation of international lawyers in a conference that extensively discussed and laid down the draft regarding the coordination of legal and technical assistance to the post-conflict democracies.
I always make it a point that I participate in the institutions and organizations that I believe in. when I was a member of United States Council of Foreign Relations, I witnessed an amazing event where this legal think tank discussed about international policy issues and that provided me an intellectual insight.
So, my association with these prestigious institutions gives me an immense satisfaction and I get back to the communities and other social causes with the view that I have to give the society that whatever I have learned. I am hopeful that my skills and legal knowledge will always be helpful to those who needs them the most.
Ques. 5: Can you tell us what particular issue are you proud of that you have worked on?
MZ: Well, it will not be an over-statement to say on my part that there are numerous contracts and issues that I am proud to have negotiated. Having said that, I can take a particular pride on my negotiation regarding a Consortium contract that was involved in building Eurotunnel and the party that facilitated its construction. Some of my cases attracted the public attention while others were within the premises of courts that were complex joint ventures regarding foreign investments. I also take pride of the works that I undertook while I was a member of ABA Center for Human Rights. I was able to help the other lawyers develop their legal skills and also got immense respect from my clients regarding human right issues. Not to say the least, my own work as an attorney satisfies me to a lot extent by bringing people to a negotiating table and working towards the benefit for both the parties. I, therefore, have able to hone my skills to the point where I can use my potential to the fullest.
Ques. 6: What qualities do you look for in a Lawyer that you hire? Do you have any parting wisdom for the readers?
MZ: First of all what we need from our candidates is a thorough and working understanding of laws and their proper interpretation according to the contexts. We also look for the extracurricular qualities and skills because they reflect their characters.
As far as the wisdom for the readers is concerned, I am of the view that the law students or the readers who are law enthusiasts must have an inane tendency to use their own logic and construct the arguments. However, I would always like to encourage the women law professionals because as I saw they sometimes find it hard to manage private life and professionally practice the law. I have seen so many counterparts of mine who made it possible to fulfill their private life and at the same time enriched their challenging and satisfying career as a lawyer. It is our responsibility as well to provide them the space they need to excel and in turn help as many people as they can.
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