Interview with Dr Emad Hussein (FCIARB, Independent Arbitrator, Mediator and Educator)

10 JunInterview with Dr Emad Hussein (FCIARB, Independent Arbitrator, Mediator and Educator)

Dr Emad Hussein has over 20 years of experience in international dispute resolution and in legal training and capacity building projects in the UAE, Gulf States, and the Middle East.  He was accredited as a mediator with the Singapore International Mediation Institute (SIMI) following his participation in the SIDRA-SMULA Mediation Accreditation Course in 2022.  We speak to him to find out more about his journey in mediation and dispute resolution.

Dr Emad

1) Could you tell us more about yourself and your experience in dispute resolution?

I was brought up in Egypt and completed my first Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, followed by a second Bachelor’s degree in Law. My initial work experience was in procurement and contracting at one of the leading industrial companies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. This role provided me with substantial exposure to dispute resolution, especially through the challenges encountered with suppliers, contractors, and manufacturers. It was in this highly interactive learning environment, dealing with various commercial disputes, that I developed a solid foundation in dispute resolution. The organization’s extensive operations and diverse contracts with local, regional, and international goods and services providers across the globe enriched my understanding and skills in this field and broadened my understanding of the world of construction, contract management and the associated disputes. 

My formal academic journey with ADR began over two decades ago. While pursuing an LLM program at Queen Mary University of London (2003-2004), I had the privilege of attending an ADR module taught by Professor Michael Palmer, a distinguished ADR scholar and practitioner, who had a wealth of knowledge and experience from both the UK and various Asian jurisdictions, including China, Singapore, and Hong Kong. His insights were invaluable and deeply influenced my approach to ADR. Additionally, Professor William M. Ballantyne drew my attention to the reality of commercial disputes in the MENA region based on his in depth practice in the Gulf States. Following my LLM, I had the opportunity to work with the UAE government for several years before founding my consultancy firm in Abu Dhabi in 2009. My firm specializes in offering training and consultancy for capacity-building projects for ADR across the MENA region, as well as providing legal translation services. However, driven by an insatiable passion for knowledge, I pursued further academic achievements. I earned my first PhD in International Business Management from the International School of Management in New York. A decade later, I pursued a second PhD in International Commercial Arbitration from SOAS, University of London. Currently, I am also pursuing a second LLM in Mediation and International Commercial Dispute Resolution at Newcastle University, which I expect to complete by August 2024. I guess I have to say the meaning of my name 'Emad' which is ambitious and a dreamer who has influenced my academic and professional journey so far.


2) What inspired you to a practice in law?

Upon completing my first degree in English Literature, my work in commercial contract management and the dynamics of procurement piqued my interest in reading the law and the rationale behind the terms and conditions. I was fortunate to work under a visionary and an exceptional leader, my first direct manager, who had achieved his master's in the USA in economics and business law and had considerable experience with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. From him, I developed a deep passion for practicing law. I still remember the long hours during day-to-day work in reviewing bank guarantees, letters of intent, supply chain documents, and other relevant materials to ensure all legal aspects were meticulously considered before awarding contracts. This type of work profoundly shaped my understanding of the importance of the letter of the law and inspired me to become a legal practitioner.


3) Why did you choose to be accredited with the Singapore International Dispute Resolution Academy and the Singapore International Mediation Institute?

It is a known fact that Singapore ranks amongst the top jurisdictions globally for both international mediation and arbitration. While pursuing my second PhD program at the University of London, I conducted comparative research on leading institutions and seats for mediation and arbitration and found Singapore's approach particularly interesting and valuable with many learned lessons. Meanwhile, SIDRA's first survey in 2020 was especially eye-opening for me, highlighting Singapore's robust ecosystem for handling cross-border disputes. The survey, which targeted corporate users and legal representatives, underscored the effectiveness of Singapore's mediation and arbitration frameworks. This led me to pursue accreditations with the Singapore International Dispute Resolution Academy (SIDRA) and the Singapore International Mediation Institute (SIMI) and I am certainly proud of these affiliations.

Additionally, upon sharing the Arabic translation of SIDRA's 2020 survey executive summary in which I was honored to do it, I received numerous inquiries from the MENA region about the unique factors contributing to Singapore's journey of  success in mediation. This prompted me to further explore these advanced jurisdictions, not just through the empirical research conducted during my LLM and PhD studies, but also through direct engagement with the SIDRA. I seize the opportunity to extend my appreciation for all my colleagues at SIDRA and I am so proud to be part of SIDRA team members. 


4) What was your experience doing the SIDRA-SMULA International Mediation Accreditation Workshop?  What did you enjoy most about it?

Participating in the SIDRA-SMULA International Mediation Accreditation Workshop was a fantastic, unique and unforgettable experience.

Prof. Nadja Alexander's expertise, her in-depth knowledge and practical insights, brought significant value to the program. Additionally, Francis Goh's coaching style was another memorable aspect of the workshop.

In terms of value and the learning process, I found the role-play exercises with my peers exceptionally beneficial. Taking on various roles—such as the requesting party of the mediation, the responding party, the counsel for both parties, and the mediator—provided for a comprehensive and rewarding learning experience. These diverse perspectives and positions in mediation contributed to a robust learning journey and offered valuable insights for future practice.


5) How has mediation shaped your practice?

Mediation has greatly impacted my practice in several ways. I have become acutely aware of the importance of active listening, realizing that, in many cases, parties simply need to feel that their voices are truly well heard. Mediation has also helped me foster a future-oriented and solutions-based mindset.

Furthermore, mediation has influenced my approach to arbitration proceedings. I actively create opportunities for parties to consider mediation and settle disputes amicably. When parties express their intention to negotiate and request a suspension of arbitral proceedings, I support the process, even if it involves granting extensions. To encourage progress, I ask parties to keep the tribunal informed of positive developments during negotiations. This approach motivates parties to work diligently towards a joint positive outcome. Additionally, mediation has become my preferred alternative when approached by corporate clients and counsels seeking consultancy for litigation or arbitration. My first question often is: "Have you tried mediation?"


6) What do you enjoy most about mediation in general?

Mediation is a journey of challenges and opportunities, each case is an adventure of exploration and discovery. I can see myself in mediation like the painter who is painting a portrait based on the colours selected by the parties around him. I particularly enjoy several aspects of the process, even those that may seem difficult.

The time spent with parties during private meetings and caucuses is very inspiring, as it reveals their true perceptions, conerners, the untold story of the dispute  and the truly inner thoughts. Another deeply satisfying moment is when parties sign the settlement agreement, signifying their joint decision to amicably resolve the dispute and create value after a period of blaming and claiming during the exploring or bargaining phases. 

Additionally, the pre-mediation phase, where I work with the counsels and parties to uncover the core of the dispute and the untold realities that haven't been fully explored in the mediation request, is also very rewarding. It is certainly akin to searching for gold amidst other metals and finally finding it.


7) Could you share three fun facts about yourself with us?

I love to work and love my work which makes it fun for me! But if I had to quantify it as facts I would say:

Multi-Tasking Enthusiast: I thrive on having multiple tasks at hand, always keeping myself engaged and challenged. This is evident from my academic journey, where I have earned 2 Bachelor's degrees, 2 Master's degrees (one achieved and one fingers crossed on the way) and 2 PhDs. Balancing these diverse academic pursuits has become second nature to me. I also enjoy balancing my interests professionally as an arbitrator, mediator and academic.

Globetrotter with a Purpose: Traveling is one of my greatest passions. I visited more than 40 countries around the globe. In addition to my travel for hearings, I make it a point to participate in events and conferences across the globe. This not only enhances my professional knowledge but also allows me to immerse myself in different cultures and broaden my global perspective. Whether it's attending a workshop in Singapore or a conference in Europe, I always combine my professional development with cultural exploration, making each trip a holistic learning experience. That way I am satisfied both personally and professionally.

Love for theatrical shows: There can be a fair amount of dramatics involved with ADR and litigation proceedings which can be a bit challenging at times. But there is one kind of drama that instantly relaxes me and I am a self-confessed theatre lover. Be it the opera, musicals, the ballet or  theatre whenever my travels take me to New York, London or Vienna if not in a hearing I am sure to be found at the theatre!