Entrepreneur Middle East Interviewed Mohamed Nasser
M. Nasser Law Firm Managing Partner Mohamed Nasser On How He Forged His Own Path In The MENA Region’s Legal Landscape
Mohamed Nasser is passionate about his responsibility to teach younger lawyers how to help people get their rights
Given that he is one of the youngest lawyers in Egypt who can boast of having an established firm of his own that caters to a client list that includes everyone from multinational corporates to fledgling startups, one may assume that 36-year-old Mohamed Nasser has perhaps inherited his role as Managing Partner at M. Nasser Law Firm– but nothing could be farther from the truth.
As it so happens, Nasser is actually someone who comes from a family with no ties to the legal profession (which is especially interesting considering that most of the biggest law firms in Egypt are essentially family businesses that have been in the game for a long while), and yet, he has managed to build a firm that has, since its launch in 2008, grown to become an enterprise with a team of 22 lawyers and a client roster that includes big names like Coca Cola Egypt, Rawabi Holding KSA, Pan-Marine Oil & Gas, and Rick-Zwan.
So, how did Nasser manage to accomplish all this? His reply to that question is a story that essentially speaks to both his passion for and perseverance in the field that he operates in. “I have been passionate about law and justice since I joined the university; to me, it’s not only a profession, it’s a message and my responsibility to teach younger lawyers how to get people their rights,” Nasser says. “I chose to specialize in corporate and civil law, not criminal law. I started off as an intern in prominent law firms when I was in college, I was only 17 then. I’m self-made, and no one in my family is a lawyer, which is not the norm in Egypt. The biggest law firms are all family businesses passed on from one generation to the next. It was not an easy market to penetrate, or to create a solid name in at a young age. I worked in a law firm for six years after my graduation, and the lawyer who owned it was my mentor, role model, and probably my biggest supporter in my career.”
“After six years, when I told him I want to start my own firm, he encouraged me, and let me keep my job with him on part-time basis, till my firm started getting clients. He believed in me, and supported me till I fulfilled my dream. I started off in a small office, with two junior lawyers as my staff. We had only two companies, and 10 individuals as clients. A few years down the line, and due to the outstanding reputation that we built, we moved to a much bigger office, and we now have 50 corporations, and more than 400 individuals as our clients.”
Nasser has seen his firm see much success in the years since he launched it- one of the key milestones on this journey happened when his client, Cedar Glass, got into a lawsuit with the Ministry of Environment in Egypt and was given penalties worth millions- however, these got waived after this enterprising lawyer won this case against the government. Wins like these have cemented the enterprise’s reputation in the market, which explains why, despite the repercussions of the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, M. Nasser Law Firm continues to find clients coming to it for their legal requirements.
“This year, although was a tough year on all industries, is also a pivotal point for our firm,” Nasser says. “We are currently getting a large number of due diligences including Mercedes Service Centers in Egypt, LOC (a UK-based company), and Aton Holding for Financial Investments. Foreign investors are now coming to us, and we are ensuring they get the best legal services, guaranteeing their investments are utilized correctly with smooth legal transactions.” Of course, the law firm has seen losses as well, but Nasser paints them as being experiences that he and his team learn from. “Setbacks and mistakes are also a normal part of the journey,” he notes. “Our loss rate doesn’t exceed 5% of the cases we work on, but every time we learn, we understand, where we went wrong, and how it could have been avoided, and when a similar case comes our way later, we win it.”
“As a team of young professionals ourselves, we had to adapt to the changes in the corporate world. We do not only focus on multinational corporations; we created a full new department dedicated to startups. We understand their needs, that they are still starting their journey, and cannot afford what multinationals could for legal advice and services. Therefore, we came up with more affordable packages of legal services that could be offered to startups, that will help them start off on the right foot, without breaking their bank. We want to see people succeed, and we want to offer them the support they need in their beginning. We have a vision- we want to start with them, and we grow together as they flourish and succeed.”
At this point, it’s worth remembering that Nasser is an entrepreneur himself- that’s the mindset that has led him to be on the career path he is currently on. “I believe the most pivotal moment [in my career] was my decision to start my own firm at such a young age,” he says. “It was a major risk. Egypt’s law scene is monopolized by certain families, and breaking in and creating a solid name was the toughest decision I ever took. But looking back, it was also the best decision I ever took.”
Nasser has thus strived to build an enterprise that is seen in high regard by not just his clients, but also his employees. “Within my team, I always ensure everyone develops a sense of belonging,” he says. “They feel this is not only their workplace, it’s their second family. They have the freedom and comfort to talk to me even about their personal problems.”
“As for our clients, I do not deal with my clients as a one-time business opportunity. I work on building long-term fruitful relationships with them. Our clients know we are their partners, and that we hold their best interest at heart- we’re not aiming for legal fees of a one-time deal. My mantra could be summarized in investing in human relations, whether with my team or the clients. When they know you actually care about them, they will develop a sense of loyalty, and in return, they do get topnotch services or workplaces.”
THE EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Given your experience working in the region, what are your thoughts on the MENA as a place to do business? From your personal point of view, what are some of the main considerations that businesses/entrepreneurs should keep in mind when running a business here?
“When expanding your business, or starting a new business from scratch in the MENA region, there are many details to take into consideration. One should look at foreign investors’ laws, which countries offer tax exemptions and for how many years, what benefits different governments offer, the cost of labor, the cost of rent, the market needs. We, as a firm, have extensive knowledge about these laws, not only in Egypt, but across the region, and we will offer sound legal advice and get all legal requirements fulfilled in the most time-efficient manner. We have also handled employee contracts for numerous companies, so we can give valuable insight on the labor cost and other company establishing costs, which is all vital information for starting a new business with proper detailed feasibility studies. Also, there are residency benefits, which we can advise our clients about. The focal point, which will determine success, is that the client has a clear picture of why they want to invest in a certain country, what are the benefits, and what is their target. For example, we have a corporate client in Saudi Arabia, that decided it’s in their best benefit to move their IT and finance departments to Egypt. It saved them huge sums of money, and the workflow maintained its efficiency. Having a knowledgeable and strong legal firm will always be in favor of the client when they are making these decisions.”
In terms of advice for people who want to start businesses in the region, what would your suggestions to be to them from a legal viewpoint?
1. Hire a qualified legal firm “You might think that’s extra cost, but what a proper legal team can do for your company will pay off. They will guide you to the right path that will ensure you get the best benefits, and ultimately have the best return on your investments.”
2. Choose the correct legal form for your business that best suits your needs “Your legal firm will advise you on the best form, the pros and cons of each, and which is the most suitable for your partners and yourself.”
3. List the purpose of your company correctly in order to full under the laws that best serve your purpose “For example, if you buy a land to plant it and export the crops, and if it’s listed under real estate law, then it wouldn’t get certain exemptions available for exporting crops.”
4. Register your trademark and patents “We always have a vision for our clients and help them grow- taking these steps early on will protect them and their identity when they expand and grow, perhaps into other parts of the region, or globally.”