In a career spanning decades, Dr. Khaled ElShalakany remains on edge in keeping up the century-old firm on top of the country’s corridor of influence in Innovating for the Business and driving change.
The Law Magazine had the utmost opportunity to speak with the top lawyer of our times, giving us a straight talk on the reality of challenging career we are facing.
Q. How did you manage to continue to be on top of your league all these years?
A. I believe that this continuation was a result of the great work ethics that we built in the law firm. These ethics were built since the law firm was established by the founder Mr. Abdel Fatah El Shalakany, and we continued on the same track. We believe from the very beginning that the main target of the law firm is to be proper professionals. People of Shalakany’s Law Office are convinced that the firm is not only a matter of business, but also a matter of being good law firm.
We do focus on providing high professional services and legal advice.
Q. Can you tell us about SHO standards & principles in appointing new talents?
A. In relation to our employees, we like to pick employees that enjoy high soft skills and good ethics that would conform with the law firm system. In deed it is important to have good legal knowledge, but more important is to have good soft skills.
Q. What is your technique in dealing with recent clients and how do you gain new clients?
A. I believe that it is important to be honest with your clients about their situation in a certain case or a dispute. In case you found that it is not winnable to resort to courts or other alternative dispute resolutions, you should tell the client this directly. In my point of view, building good reputation is of a crucial importance in gaining new clients. Having good reputation will support you to gain clients’ trust, which will consequently will help you to get more work and more clients.
Q. Being a lawyer is an issue of skill, practice or both together?
A. I would say that being a lawyer is an issue of skill and practice together. Both complete each other as I call it competence and skills. The person should have the basics
then start developing his skills To develop your skills you have the theoretical phase plus the practical phase. In lawschool most of the skills are acquired by practice plus some basic skills. I would say it is a process of learning from your mistakes and from your successes.
Q. What is your criteria in accepting new cases?
A. In fact we have two different criteria in accepting new cases.
Firstly, we do not really accept cases with a bit low reward. As the market changed a bit recently and the costs have become bit high we cannot accept cases with low reward. However, we do accept cases without any financial reward. For example, we
handle some cases for good and helping people that cannot afford the fees of solving the cases.
Q. As an owner of one of the biggest law firms in Egypt, what is your advice for someone wants to start up a law firm?
A.Just before giving my advice I would like to mention that I am
not the owner of the firm, I am a senior managing partner. We have other partners in the firm.
To be honest it is not an easy to start up your own law firm. So, I believe that it is of a vital importance to at least have two or three good clients that would act as a good start for your own law firm. You cannot start up a law firm without having a company or two that would act as a good base to cover the fees and the costs of your law firm,particularly in the sector we work in like large cases and international contracts. Also, it is important to keep your costs low and to start small.
Q. How did you develop Khaled El Shalakany as a person away from Shalakny name?
A. I exposed myself to a lot of educational and cultural experiences. I obtained my law degree from University of Toronto,Canada. It is one of the best law schools in Canada and equivalent to Harvard in the United States. I also had an engineering degree from Cairo university and I worked as an engineer for four years in IBM.
Actually I have a lot of different interests as I have done some courses on philosophy and studied management at the American University in Cairo. I also translated some books of Erich From from English to Arabic and I wrote some short stories. And, just to mention I am still studying till now as I am registered as a student in Manchester university on Egyptology.
So, I am doing a lot of staff within the legal section and other staff out of the legal section.
Q. You studied abroad for a certain period of time, post graduate research at the University of London, L.L.M from Cambridge; do you consider this as an added value to your work and the firm?
A.It was extremely useful, as I got the chance to get well knowledge about the common law system. I started as a common law lawyer then I made the equivalence, when I came
back to Egypt. Consequently, this provided me with the opportunity to work and gain knowledge about both fields the common & civil law field.
Q. Have you been compared to your father’s era, how did you react to this?
A. Honestly, I have not received that comparison before. I might say that I am the one that compares my era to my father’s era, and I must say that we as a firm owe a lot to Aly El Shalakany. In fact he is the one that set all the basics, ethics and the vision of the firm. Our success is greatly attributable to what he has done and we are continuing on the same strategy that he had set. In relation to our people at the firm we really have nice work culture. They all act as a family, we travel and enjoy our time together. For instance, we travel for some days as a team every year to different places like Aswan or Gouna. So, we like to socialize and keep it as a family and I think that is Aly El Shalakny legacy. My point is that the person has to work to live not live to work. You actually work to get a life and you have to explore other things not only law, but also other stuff like poetry, cinema, and etc…
Q. These days the market in general faces massive challenges, how do see the legal market?
A. Actually the legal market has faced great changes like the coming of foreign firms to Egypt. Another obvious change is money, gaining money became a bit difficult. For instance, the hourly rate system is disappearing as the clients prefer knowing their budget and agreeing on the fees from they very beginning. Also, people interested in working in the legal major have changed as many now are developing themselves like going abroad to obtain their PHD from high ranking universities.
In addition to this, many law firms have the advantage of English and international experience.
Q. What do you think of the Egyptian legal education system?
A. In fact I did not study law here, so, I might not be fully aware of the whole system. But, I have given some lectures in Cairo university and the American University in Cairo. As far as I am concerned, the system needs to be improved as you cannot get about 5000 students in year, and give them the right education. Furthermore, the education system should always be based on quality not quantity. Education in the legal major should focus more on developing legal skills like critical thinking and drafting skills, rather than being a tool to know the law only.
One of the superb things that is happening recently is the moot court competition. Even here at the law firm we started to apply it, as we send students to Vienna and Hong Kong.
During the rounds of the competition, we try to teach students the legal skills that they might not be aware of in universities. For instance, we teach them how to write memos, draft contracts and research skills.
Q. The Egyptian legal system; What is your opinion & how it can be improved?
A. The Egyptian legal system is in need of improvement specially in our legislative system. There are many legislation that contradict each other which consequently cause huge mess and loss in some cases.
Also, I do feel sorry for the mess that our judicial systems faces.Judges are in need of some training and their pay has to be increased as well. They have huge amount of work and disputes to solve while on the other side they are not provided with enough time to do so.
Additionally, the system of the courts has to be changed, there must be some sort of organization, better facilities, and speed.
Q. What is your message for the new generations, your people and your clients?
A. For the new generations, this is really an honorable profession with great historical figures across the ages like Abraham Lincoln. There are many great lawyers who shined
over the history. So, keep learning, developing yourself, and never lose hope. Do not ever forget to stick to the ethics and be professionals.
In relation to my clients I would like to thank you all for believing in us. You are the base of the firm. For my employees and my people I would like to thank you all for your efforts and for being good family.
By: Hoda Nafee