Interview with: Mohamed Khodeir, Founder & Managing Partner
Khodeir & Partners | View firm profile
What has been your greatest achievement, in a professional and personal capability?
I believe I was very blessed, probably one of the very few lawyers and managing partners who had the chance to work in 4 jurisdictions in the Middle East, while leading positive change and multibillion dollar deals in parallel. I had the chance to work with diversified teams from all over the world and led, as managing partner, with the teams I worked with the practices I was responsible for into sustainable success including recognition and awards across the region. However, the most important milestone in my career was when I had the opportunity to serve my country during challenging times when I was appointed as CEO of the Egyptian General Authority for Investment and led the reform program we designed at the time including the promulgation of the Investment Law. In a nutshell, I am very content and grateful to have had a very diversified and rich exposure and to have had the chance to learn and pass on my experience to many people from across the globe.
What do you do differently from your peers in the industry?
I believe we all thrive to deliver the best we can to our clients, the sustainable distinction we are focused on as a firm is quality through our boutique model where we can bring as much brains on the table to deliver the best solutions to our clients that are well thought of, regardless of the number of hours we spend on a matter. What counts most for us is to deliver the best quality and competitive pricing at the same time, that is why we do our best to be selective of the work we take on board to be able to deliver both without compromises.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would say to my younger self and some of my colleagues today, work life balance is not a luxury. It is an essential requirement for sustainable growth; otherwise you will suffer at a given point of time a burn out no matter how strong you think you are. Working 20/7 many days over years of your practice will block you if you do not address it quickly. I had to undergo personal changes to be able to adapt and so can everyone if you realize early enough that this is not sustainable. I would also say that competition is healthy so long as it does not drag your ethical bar down, but unfortunately some people lose their selves under the competition rush. This is one of the things I always tried to avoid, as nothing is worth compromising on your ethical standards, even though your competitors will like to believe that you did, the important thing is for you to know you never did. I would also advise younger generations not to pay attention to what people say or how they try to judge you or gossip about you behind your back, just focus on your goals and exhaust your energy in a balanced fashion towards your career objectives. This is the inevitable cost for success and the nature of life and will never end, so ignore it. My last few tip to younger lawyers would be to recommend to them to not to let the deal rush get to you, as many lawyers start thinking about life and doubting others the way they undergo a “due diligence” on a deal and think they know it all. Learning ends with passing away and real life is not just about skills you acquire on deals it’s a wide range of experiences you acquire and learn over time which needs to keep growing. Otherwise, acting like how your deals are does not work in real life and should be addressed early on before it gets to you. Taking these recommendations into prospective with COVID 19 in action and lessons we are all learning hopefully, it is important not to lose track of your human identity, because you get exposed to too much materialistic surroundings.
Can you give me a practical example of how helped a client add value to the business?
One of our family business clients was about to lay off a huge number of employees upon the panic associated with the outburst of COVID 19 and sought our advice. We highlighted to the client that the there is no blanket protection under the law to secure such measures and showed the client a cost analysis and due compensations the client would have to pay along with reputational damage it will need to manage in these times. We also advised the client to hold off these measures for a while. We believe that if COVID 19 was somehow addressed and life started to go back to the new normal, as are the signals today, the cost of rehiring talent and the reputation damage that may impact the client could be irreversible. This is not the conventional advice to clients and may involve less fees for us, but what is important about it is that it adds value, real value as we believe in it. Today the client is more positive about it and pleased to have received this advice while managing it using some of their reserves, and we are working with them to address how to go back to business and continue operations sustainably without getting it out on staff or threaten the client’s reputation in markets where it is difficult to keep secrets. Obviously, if COVID 19 continues more aggressively, some of these measures can be challenging with the great uncertainties, however now is, in some sectors, quite early for leadership to dump it on its staff especially with organizations with manageable overheads and sufficient reserves. Our advice to clients is not just legal, it is an advice directed at overall value creation and sustainability in it wider sense, especially at times of human crisis where organizations are expected to show their human side, their HR teams have been promoting for years, rather than take it out on their human power, now is the real test. Obviously, this is easier said than done and different from one organization to the other depending on the size, the sector and the jurisdictional exposure it has etc. but COVID 19 showed that it can be done in some businesses, at least thus far. We believe that many businesses are suffering and that there will be businesses who will close and exit markets and their will be lost jobs, but we view our role is to support contain such negative implications to the extent possible when genuinely it can be done noting that we are all exposed to these uncertainties and it is difficult to forecast what tomorrow holds, so no one can claim one right answer, as we all provide answers in light of our principle focus points and experience which includes the financial crises in 2008-2009.
Within your sector, what do you think will be the biggest challenge for clients over the next 12 months?
Improving the technological capabilities and virtual delivery of service firms in the region and promoting that, particularly with clients used to engaging their service providers (particularly lawyers) in a conventional manner which is not scarce in respect of legal services in the Middle East. In addition, the conventional challenge of providing the highest quality at the most competitive costs will be even more relevant.