Interview: Dr. Amr Abbas on the inception of the FDI Moot in Egypt

On April 24th 2019, Matouk Bassiouny & Hennawy announced that it will host the first-ever Egyptian national rounds of the Foreign Direct Investment moot court. The Law Magazine had the privilege to have an exclusive word with one of the minds behind the inception of the FDI in Egypt during the national rounds on the 6th of septmebr.WhatsApp Image 2019-09-16 at 20.53.28Q: Dr. Amr, it is my personal pleasure to conduct this interview. Your resume precedes you. We’ll take off from a point that we were discussing moments before the interview, that is: you are a mooting veteran, you’ve judged both the national and international rounds of Phillip C. Jessup in 2009, 2010, and 2011. So, let me start by asking; now that you are judging multiple moots, what are your current views on mooting in general? Could it be higher than education in a way?

Interview by: Khaled al-Khashab

A: I think it is very crucial for the development of students and practitioners to get involved in this early on. Is it higher than education? Well, I think it is a part of education. In education there is theory, from which you get to know the law from an academic side. However, mooting is actually the closest you can get to the actual practice of theories and law you study academically. So, I think it is a part of education, but it is a very important part of education. Why is it the closest to the practice of law? First, you have cases that are normally close to actual real-life cases in terms of facts. You also have real-life arbitrators or practitioners, so they’re able to give valuable feedback and color of the practice to students in order for them to start in a safe environment and to get the experience from the practice. So this is where I think it is a very important component of education where students can combine theoretical and practical aspects of education and get real exposure to real practitioners and arbitrators in an environment that is also competitive. Hence, this is a very important part of education.

Q: Regarding the FDI Moot, it has been around the world for a while now, we believe for 13 years now, how did it come together for Egypt, and specifically for Matouk Bassiouny to hold the national round?


A: The idea came from a colleague and a friend of mine, Mr. Ibrahim Shehata. He is also a practitioner and knows the international organizers as well. They wanted to host the FDI in Egypt, he passed the idea to me, and I was very excited about it. I was involved in mooting in the Jessup, and others such as Willem C. Vis, and Price Media Law. I  also coached at the very beginning of them. I’ve coached Cairo University teams, so that was very exciting. For the Investment Arbitration, which activity is new to Egypt, while a local investment arbitration moot was organized as a student activity before in Cairo University, this international investment moot is really interesting to add to the already existing ones in terms of mooting subjects. Now in Egypt there is International Law moot in the Jessup, Commercial Arbitration through the Willem C. Vis, Price Media and the ICRC in IHRL and IHL, and finally we can add this FDI arbitration, which is very important as Egypt has been party to several Investment Arbitration cases, and we have many cases before various tribunals, we also have numerous Bilateral Investment Treaties. Along with the fact that we face investment arbitration more often. Hence, I think it is important to have generations that are familiar with this practice area, generations that are familiar with the topic, and attempt to practice it nationally and internationally as well.


Q: Regarding the point of perception. Can you describe the feelings or vibes that the people in Matouk Bassiouny got when proceeding with the organization of the very first national FDI rounds?


A: Well, it is a big undertaking in terms of the time it takes and organizing and coordinating between different people. So, we basically have volunteer arbitrators from different firms and institutions. Our team has put a lot of effort in organizing and coordinating this big undertaking. As a firm, we’ve been doing our share of investment arbitration so we have the practice, and we thought that it would be beneficial to introduce the students to it and also to have other people from outside the Firm helping out and volunteering as arbitrators. We believe that is a part of our role and rather duty to distribute this knowledge among students and next-generation practitioners in Egypt.


Q: When it comes to the next generation, and the legal community in general, how do you believe they’ve perceived this moot? I believe that there is a glimpse of such perception which appears in the fact that there are volunteer judges of other institutions. However, what other impacts could be apparent in this moot?


A: Well, generally I felt that many people were excited about it and wanted to participate in it. At the beginning we had strong will from students and different colleagues who wanted to collaborate and work on this, there was also the factor of timing as this was the first time the moot would be done in Egypt so there was not too much experience with holding a moot for students and scheduling an event with such context. So, we were learning as we were doing it, especially that we are in a vacation period where some people are not present. There are things that we’ve learned with time and strive to perfect in the next encounter such as when the announcement should be made when to invite people and other things of course. We’ve had plenty of people who were interested in volunteering, but their schedules did not allow it. So, generally it was positively perceived and that was reflected in the willingness of participants and volunteers.


Q: Regarding moots in general, and from your personal experience in that regard, students have been participating heavily in moots for the past 6 years or more. Do you believe that this is finally the landscape the legal community requires for education and that mooting has become a cemented culture or that it is a fashion that might fade away?


A: Whether it will be a fashion that fades away is a question for time, but if you speak about importance of mooting as a part of education, it is very crucial and students realize this and its importance in terms of opportunities to practice and learn and ‘think on their feet’ and also to have the opportunity to interact with different players and practitioners. You have judges, lawyers, and practitioners that are volunteering in these events and now they have exposure to them and discuss things with them in moots, outside the competition, on and off record; so these provide huge opportunities for students. So, you can see how the students are actually excited for mooting. I’ve forgotten to mention that some of my own students participated in an International-only Investment Arbitration moot (Frankfurt Moot Court) and we have trained and sponsored them last year. You can see that students are now searching for opportunities for mooting even if not available in Egypt they are digging for them and manage to participate in them. So, this is how much students realize the importance of this and also how practitioners realize the importance of participation whether for new generations to be exposed or at least for the fulfillment of the obligation to give back. When I called for different people and colleagues to participate in the moot, they were very excited and those who were not able to come asked me to tell them earlier to reserve the time. So, I don’t think it will fade away given the opportunities for everyone who participates.

Q: Dr. Amr, with the density of cases in moots, do you believe that it could somehow substitute internship programs especially in dispute resolution departments?

A: It’s a good question. Whether it can be supplementary or a substitute. I think that internships and moots have different roles. Again, there are similarities in terms of the chance to practice and meet practitioners and be inside the kitchen. But as an intern, you don’t get to do the whole thing as a mooter. As mooters get to do all: from research to drafting to oral advocacy. This cycle gives you a different kind of experience. As an intern, you actually sit together with practitioners, work with them, and get the feedback, and a bit of a detailed view from inside the kitchen. Also, they get to know you better. While, in mooting, we get to see them on their feet, while as interns we get to see them as team players and what kind of skills they have. So, I think they are complementary. They both have many positive things that are different, but helpful.

Q: Considering that now Matouk Bassiouny is now the organizer of FDI, are we going to see other moots organized by the Firm in the near future?

A: In terms of organization I’m not sure we can do more than once per year. However, we happen to assist others with moots as we have been helping in Vis, we have the training and sponsoring for various moots and also co-sponsoring the Jessup with Shalakany, though they undertake most the organizational effort. So we will be participating but in terms of organization and hosting, we think that one moot is enough. Yet again, if something is worth it and no one else is considering it, we might be able to do it. We’ve really enjoyed doing this, it is a lot of work, but it’s very interesting, exciting and full of energy. Most of my colleagues from the firm are here on Friday and Saturday and have also been involved heavily in the organization. It is very positive for us and we’re happy to do it, but we are not sure if we can do more than once per year.

Q: Finally, Dr. Amr, any words of encouragement for participants, practitioners, and those involved in this moot and the mooting community in general?

It’s a big undertaking to do the moot; to research, draft, and plead. I overheard someone saying they were sophomores. So, it shows initiative, and someone’s willing to give effort. I am really impressed with what I have seen today and in other moots. I believe that those who do such undertakings are rewarded in their skills enhancement, their knowledge, in being known to the practice community, and I encourage them to do more and get involved in mooting. It’s a lot of effort, but it is highly rewarding as for those who work in firms, it takes years to harness the knowledge that mooters harness in very brief periods. From such perspective, they get ready, get their feet wet, and take a huge leap forward. And I encourage them to do so.



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