Can you give our Legal Business readers an overview of Matouk Bassiouny’s practice in the UAE?
Matouk Bassiouny in the UAE was established in 2018, incorporated on the ADGM initially, expanded afterwards in Dubai via a branch office. Matouk Bassiouny in the UAE is a full fledge law firm offering a wide variety of legal services to a wide spectrum of its clientele. In 2021, Jirayr Habibian joined the firm as its managing partner, with an aim to further strengthen the presence of the firm in the UAE, leveraging on the 20 years of experience Jirayr has in the UAE and the wider GCC.
What do you see as the main points that rank Matouk Bassiouny as a leading firm in the UAE legal business market?
Matouk Bassiouny’s competitive edge in the UAE is the ability to leverage on its large and talented regional, as well as its flexibility in allocating resources for any project, no matter how complex or big the project. This allows the firm in the UAE to be more flexible in its structure as well as more responsive to clients.
Furthermore, the quality and turnaround time that Matouk Bassiouny’s team commits towards its client base is an important component of the overall success of the firm.
Given the problems created by the Covid-19 pandemic, how is this affecting your firm and the legal business market generally in the UAE?
In its initial phases, Covid-19 did have an impact on the transactional market, however the contentious market continued to function, especially with the adaptation the courts in the UAE had to implement, as well as the phenomenal speed in the transformation towards a digital judicial system in the UAE. Law firms had to adjust to this transformation and adopt measures to follow which, in our opinion, speeded up the process of digitalising the overall judicial system as well as the law firms.
Further down the line as the markets and businesses resumed from full lockdown, and the very well managed pandemic crisis management adopted by the different local and federal authorities in the UAE, the legal business market naturally picked up and we are seeing more and more return to certain pre-pandemic levels.
Can you talk about any trends or changes in the landscape you are seeing emerge in the UAE legal business market?
The UAE legal market is evolving with the evolution of the legal system in the UAE. In the past several months we have witnessed many changes and amendments to laws that are making the UAE more and more attractive to conducting business. With competition in the GCC region starting to pick up (eg, the changes and opening of the Saudi markets) the UAE had to take further steps to increase and strengthen foreign investments. We have witnessed a liberalisation in the ownership of onshore companies (that has always been a highly protected sector where UAE nationality was mandatory to establish onshore) in a wide spectrum of activities. We are seeing Abu Dhabi, for example, opening up its energy sector (to an extent) to foreign ownership, in addition to a wide range of industrial activities. Furthermore, the UAE is also keeping pace with the ‘digital’ revolution and encouraging many start-ups in many domains. We see fintech being encouraged, alternative agriculture being developed (vertical hydroponics), and crowd funding being regulated more and more.
In a nutshell, the legal system and legal business market in the UAE is growing and keeping pace with what we see in other countries and in some cases even leading the way.
How is your firm positioned for an anticipated resurgence in activity in the UAE legal business market?
Our firm, as mentioned earlier, is very well positioned to take advantage of the resurgence in activity in the UAE legal market, since we have a very active team on the ground, with experience and network in the UAE, backed up by a robust regional structure, which makes Matouk Bassiouny in the UAE very well positioned to react to the market’s needs.
Which sectors are/will be of most interest to foreign investors, and why?
The real estate sector remains a very wanted commodity in the UAE market, however, we see now, with the liberalisation of the foreign ownership, an increasing interest in the healthcare sector (Covid-19 being one of the drivers, in addition to the oncological sector). Namely after the signing of the Abraham Accord, we are seeing an increased interest in the healthcare sector, industrial sector, sustainable energy etc. In parallel, Dubai and the UAE, given its location, remains a very competitive location for trade business, not to forget the increasing importance the UAE has in the fintech and digitalisation areas.
Are there any main changes which you have personally made within the firm that will benefit clients?
Given my very brief history with the firm (I joined on 1 April 2021) I am not in a position to have made any changes yet, although the system laid down by the founders, Omar Bassiouny and John Matouk has so far proven quite efficient with clients in the UAE, a system in which I am planing to leverage and, of course, ultimately introduce certain additions that could and will go along with the intuitu-personae I can contribute to the firm.
What has been your greatest achievement, in a professional and personal capacity?
Again, my time with the firm is yet at its beginning hence I cannot really talk about my greatest achievement within the firm quite yet. I hope that come 2022, should this interview be repeated, I will be able to share some success stories.