Can you give our Legal Business readers an overview of Matouk Bassiouny’s practice in Egypt?
Matouk Bassiouny & Hennawy is a premier full-service business law firm in Egypt. We started in Egypt, and since then have expanded across the MENA region with offices in the UAE, Sudan and Algeria. Our firm is organised within four main practice groups, and we have recently developed core sector focus capabilities organised into 16 specialised sector groups. With over 170 lawyers in our Egypt office, our firm collectively has access to a vast amount of legal knowledge and experience. We are therefore able to deliver legal services catered to the sector-specific needs of our clients. Our lawyers are trained both locally and internationally in both civil and common law systems, our lawyers are fully conversant in English, Arabic and French. Our firm is ideally placed to advise on high-profile, high-value complex matters.
What do you see as the main points that rank Matouk Bassiouny as a leading firm in the Egyptian legal business market?
Firstly, our strict core practice groups. Unlike other top-tier law firms in Egypt, we are the only law firm in Egypt that has strict practice groups enabling us to efficiently deliver innovative solutions to our clients. Hand in hand with, I also believe our dedicated sector-focused groups give our lawyers and clients a massive advantage. Our firm has made a tremendous investment in implementing 16 sector-focused groups that cut across all our practice groups in order to achieve an even higher level of intellectual and practical synergy. We have created a space for our lawyers to meet, discuss developments, debate ideas, share precedents, anecdotes and add to each other’s and their clients’ knowledge within specific business sectors. And last, but certainly not least, our diversity and inclusion programme which launched last year, headed by our partner, Mariam Auda. Our biggest source of pride at our firm is that we have implemented a horizontal meritocratic philosophy in order to foster an environment where the brightest minds, no matter their gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or socio-economic background, can come together and flourish professionally.
Given the problems created by the Covid-19 pandemic, how is this affecting your firm and the legal business market generally in Egypt?
Well, the first year of the pandemic was very challenging. Considering that we are the largest firm in Egypt, in the context of the pandemic, size has not helped us. When you are a smaller firm, you are more agile and perhaps able to weather the storm more easily. However, when you are as large as us it becomes more challenging. That being said, we did manage to weather that storm and in fact rose from the pandemic stronger. In a way, it prepared us to manage future crises more efficiently as they may come. From a work standpoint, the first six months of the pandemic were a disaster. The world just froze. Starting from September of last year, however, work began ramping back up. Today we are busier than we have ever been and we have enshrined concepts of mobility and distance working, which will enable us to efficiently manage any future lockdowns or other future safety precautions.
Can you talk about any trends or changes in the landscape you are seeing emerge in the Egyptian legal business market?
We are now seeing Egypt rise to being one of the top destinations for foreign direct investment, which means that inbound M&A has been very hot. Secondly, I believe Egypt is starting to get traction as being seen as a new start up scene. We are seeing a lot of new innovative startups and accordingly, a lot of investment in the startup scene. Accordingly, we are starting to see a slight shift in M&As. In the past M&A was mainly focused on oil and gas, FMCG, health care and education, but now we are starting to see that focus diversify a bit, mainly by honing in on the tech and startup scenes.
How is your firm positioned for an anticipated resurgence in activity in the Egyptian legal business market?
As previously mentioned, we have never been busier than we are today. And so this year, starting from January 2021, the firm has added around an additional 15 lawyers to our teams. Accordingly, we are completely equipped and ready to handle all of our clients’ needs, whatever they may be. Additionally, we were very humbled to have won Corporate and M&A Law Firm of the Year at this year’s Chambers Middle East Awards 2021.
Which sectors are/will be of most interest to foreign investors, and why?
Traditionally speaking, FMCG, education and healthcare sectors are fuelled by strong demographics, however, as I touched upon earlier, Egypt is now witnessing new sectors emerging, namely the tech and startup sectors. We are also witnessing innovative efforts to link the tech sectors with more traditional sectors, for example one of our startup clients is Ashtar which does e-learning, Jilatee which sells secondhand fashion and Shift EV which does acceleration for the transition to electric mobility for fleets in the emerging markets.
Are there any main changes which you have personally made within the firm that will benefit clients?
I think the main, most recent change has been building up our dedicated sector-focused groups. Our 16 sector groups support our practice groups by providing sector-specific expertise, which has proven to be a significant added-value to each practice group’s offerings to clients. This initiative has underlined our commitment to understanding our clients’ industry-specific commercial needs and allows us not to just be lawyers to our clients, but also valuable business partners with them. We remain the only firm in Egypt to adopt such a structure.
Also quite important, is our regional expansion. Our regional firm has continued to grow over the past few years, and just last year we officially opened our fourth office in Algiers, making us one of the largest regional firms in the MENA region.
What has been your greatest achievement, in a professional and personal capacity?
Honestly, I believe my greatest achievement is having found my amazingly supportive wife. Building a regional top-tier law firm like Matouk Bassiouny from the ground up is incredibly time consuming and demanding, and there is no way I could have done it without the patience and support of my wonderful wife.