Nermine Tahoun speaks to The LAW in an exclusive interview on what could be the near future of the Egyptian legal industry.
Interview & edit by: Khaled al-Khashab.
Q: Nermine Tahoun, a name that is making a rapid growth over the past three years. Let’s start with your firm’s journey and the expansion of the market. How did both entries overlap?
A: well, we are moving a little bit slower than our original projection due to the market’s status and how it was shaped post-2011 as well as post-2014. The market was not that fast in a way that allows for establishing an entity as you crave. You have to become more conservative and aware of your steps in the market especially in a time that the companies are going with austerity, and the halt of M&As as well as its booming. The same could also be told about tourism, so the market was not stable in a way that allows accurate forecasting. I could proudly say that I and my team struggled enough to provide unique, remarkable, and fast services with a focus on competitive pricing that suits the market’s obstacles. You can say that we are making such visible progress through the past three years because we’ve kept up with the market’s dynamics.
Q: Inconstancy with the promised changes on global markets as of 2020, does Tahoun & Associates have a forecast and plans for the upcoming period that you can share with the community?
A: We are considering expansion of course. However, I still prefer the idea of a boutique firm. I do not believe in being massive in size without having a solid base. Hence, I always slow down. Our priority is the quality of services in addition to gaining the clients’ utmost trust. Additionally, I focus on the development of our attorneys. They gain much knowledge and skills that alter their professional path and polishes their character, even if they part with us, they realize how much progress they’ve made. Our forecast, on the other hand, follows the general economic policy of Egypt. We seek sectors that expand as well as entities that offer Foreign Direct Investments. From such point of view, I believe that Technology, and Oil & Gas sectors are of high importance. I also like to focus on certain areas that I am passionate about, such as Projects Finance as well as Public-Private Partnerships [which I hope would be active once more]. I have a soft spot for other sectors. Other sectors are rapidly expanding and to deal with such expansion I acquire strong calibers that can provide such expertise and “luster” the staff’s skills in such areas.
Q: Speaking of expansion, there is a phenomenon of firms merging with or acquiring other entities to expand to other practice areas. Does the firm plan to undertake such a step?
A: To answer that, I am always cautious regarding any movement. Any names that become a part of an entity must be an “addition”, Otherwise, it will only just name going back and forth. When we started our firm, we were associated with an entity called Premiers, which is based in the United States, along with other partnerships of U.S. entities. Nevertheless, such additions must be to the firm rather than just names. Partners to an entity must provide an input of a sort. If your business model is maintained, and successful then you simply do not undertake any reckless moves and proceed with partnerships that prevent your entity, which was a byproduct of hard labor, from its development.
Q: Regarding T-Academy, and the Continuous Professional Development (CPD) certification. What modules does the Academy provide and what is the competitive edge of the CPD?
A: The Idea originated when I realized that many law school graduates lack the necessary skills for working in the field. The development of such skills requires a lot of time and effort in addition to hardship within the field to acquire or develop such skills. Unfortunately, our educational system does not even provide the slightest glimpse of such skills and to our shock, we figure that such skills are the basis of our work rather than the books-based knowledge. So, It hit me that instead of training, we have to provide an extensive learning process of areas that they shall practice. For instance, learning the practical aspects of Mergers & Acquisitions, its applicable laws, what is a project agreement, what laws applies to such agreements, how to finance a project, and Oil & Gas Projects and its laws and agreements, etc. these matters are very technical, and require the attorney to specialize in it, as specialization is a manner that gives the lawyer a competitive edge. Nevertheless, a specialist attorney must be aware of such technicalities, along with the business to reflect such knowledge in a well-drafted agreement, or proper advice. From that perspective, and to give the academy an educational weight. We partnered with CPD accreditation to provide accredited hours in the UK with courses provided by the academy. Such hours are acknowledged in a UK certification through the CPD Association. This way, I a candidate studies in the UK in CPD accredited facility, such hours by the course are deducted from the credit hours of the institution. In this way we give candidates an edge, not only they acquire the technicalities that are not available through education, but to give them value on their time that can be utilized later on.
Q: Are there any upcoming courses provided by the Academy?
A: there are multiple courses in the making. We are re-enlisting a course due to the demand, that is the Mergers & Acquisitions course, another course is that of the Project financing, and we will eventually provide an Oil & Gas course. These are the courses on our schedule for now, which we will work on gradually.
Q: T-Smart is a new service provided which could reshape the field. But what is T-Smart precisely?
A: The Idea is based on my belief that all services should be provided through technology. At a certain point, I don’t believe that the interaction between the client and the attorney will no longer be required in-person especially if both parties know their inputs as well as the fact that the answer could be generic, as it could be provided through a computer program. So, we would not require clients to visit the office or set a meeting as life is becoming more fast-paced. So, I believe that in providing legal services we must rely on technology. Hence, we shall create a web program along with a mobile application from which the legal service shall be provided as an “online office”, an office that you do not need to visit. For instance, if you require an employment agreement, you shall provide data such as your salary as well as the right you want to protect within the is agreement. They provide the data, and we provide the final product and that is that. You do not need to call your lawyer and meet up with them, as this is a very standard agreement. Instead of downloading an anonymous agreement from the internet without knowing its source you’ll get an agreement from an app that is run by a group of attorneys. It gives various changes in terms of elimination of transportation from the workplace and forth, the engagement with multiple lawyers which allows them to increase their income. Meanwhile, entities and individuals in the business sector interact with less cost, swift, and precise services. We’ll start the service with a limited and precise scope, we hope to develop, and expand it to other sectors. We believe that this idea is for the “Future” as we must develop the means of providing our services, and not necessarily in a typical way that focuses on an office and frequent visits to premises. Most of our work as corporate and investment practitioners is done remotely through emails for instance. Less interaction is required if both parties are precise in their needs. Interactions would be needed only in matters such as disputes, or in matters that require extensive explanation, or negotiations. Typical questions, for instance, do not require visits that waste the client’s time. Just let them make inquiries or obtain a template of an agreement through the application and that is that. I would like to have it open to others and not only exclusive to Tahoun & associates, but rather many other lawyers who’d be enlisted and, on the application, and benefit from it. At the same time, others would benefit from their contributions regarding each matter or topic. At the same time, the lawyers benefit, financially, in an unconventional way. It is an idea, which tries to make it more succumbed to changes and the development of services providing. In other regions, software legal services are frequent in providing legal consultancies, so why don’t we establish a base for different legal services providing.
Q: Finally, Do you have a message to the legal community, in the light of this interview?
A: I would like if we would be more cooperative, as our cooperation and even mergers make us stronger as firms operating in Egypt which is what the market needs in opposition to isolation. We should unify our policies more to be able to provide better and different legal services, and better training for attorneys.