Most Influential Woman in International Contract Law 2019 – Kuwait
With over twenty years of legal experience in Kuwait, during which she has held the roles of Assistant Director of the legal department at Ahli United Bank, Chair of the Economic Committee of the Kuwait Lawyers Association for two years. Editor-in-Chief of Legal Challenges magazine, Areej Hamada has done it all. Now the President of the Legal Challenges Group, we take a closer look to find out more about her exceptional success.
Areej Hamada has had to sacrifice a lot to make it to the top. She’s a self-made woman. Nothing has been handed to her. She didn’t stumble into her role as President of one of Kuwait’s top boutique law firms, she earned it, building it gradually from the ground up. The law firm itself is a relatively new development. It has come off the back of twenty years legal experience, thirteen as a lawyer at Ahli United Bank, one in the governmental sector and four for various law firms.
Areej started out as a new graduate, employed by Ahli United Bank under Suad Al Jassem, the first female lawyer in Kuwait. It was from her that Areej developed her skills for being able to prove her worth and hold her own in a male dominated world. After thirteen years, and earning the role of Assistant Director of the legal department, she took a break to raise her children. Deciding to get back into work again when they were older, Areej took a role with the government for a year. It was dull, and didn’t push Areej, who knew she was capable of more. As a result, she decided to quit and start looking for work in the legal profession. It was at this point, far away from the influence of her mentor, that the realities of gender discrimination became unfortunately obvious to her. Opportunities were made available for male attorneys and not to her, because she was a woman. This happened regardless of their legal experience compared to her, not inconsiderable, own. After taking friends advice, she worked ‘pro bono’ for a local law firm and found the work enjoyable. She did this for four years, volunteering at various law firms without pay. This endeared her to the legal profession considerably. Having proved she had the gumption to try her hand, she’s came out on the other side of the process stronger and looking to start her own firm in order to set things right.
Determined to start the business off as a formidable element in the sector, not as a charity case, Areej arranged appointments with a variety of business-owner friends. They were amused by the legal service offered, but also unconvinced. This frustrated Areej, who was sure that this was purely because of her gender, and so she decided to try a different approach to get people involved in her company. She went for a policy of indirect marketing, volunteering legal advice on local issues of interest to society and conducting several economic legal studies on new topics. She advocated societal issues and held conferences on various legal matters. In short, she served the state and community using the skills she wanted to sell. At the end of all that, of four years of hard and mostly unpaid work, a business owner friend who she had already talked to asked if he could put her on retainer for his firm. The indirect advertising had paid off and was making her dreams come true. Finally, her company was picking up, and has continued to ever since.
“Being able to communicate clearly and effective to a client is one of the reasons that the Legal Challenges Group is one of the best services related to the preparation and drafting of civil, commercial and administrative contracts.”
The Legal Challenges Group provides a range of legal and technical services, including advocacy, commercial and arbitration disputes to name a few, through a group of lawyers, legal advisers and investment banking consultants. All the people involved in the company are employed on merit and have extreme expertise and competence. For them, the key to their success is the provision of good and outstanding service. By ensuring that customers are actively followed up, they are made to feel comfortable and looked after. This high level of customer service is ingrained into the fibre of the Legal Challenges Group, with lectures, courses and educational meetings provided for the staff so they can best facilitate clients’ needs. It’s an opportunity to share experiences, discuss and explain how best to deal with the problems they might encounter during the course of working. Not only does this ensure the customer is happy, but also that the office is able to receive the information it needs to proceed. Being able to communicate clearly and effective to a client is one of the reasons that the Legal Challenges Group is one of the best services related to the preparation and drafting of civil, commercial and administrative contracts.
As a boutique firm, every client is extremely valuable to the furthering of the company at large. Clients come from a number of backgrounds, from owners of companies to their employees. Either way, Areej and her team are trained to deal with whatever comes their way flexibly and with professionalism. Their office is notable for being able to communicate with clients at the required level. Communicating electronically or in person (as agreed with the client), they also provide legal opinion and communication in the event of any developments in the subject. Making sure that clients are kept in the loop is paramount and they will hold meetings to keep our client well informed with all the proceedings of the case. Areej and her team help clients to understand all state laws so they can reach their requirements. They also specialise in helping local or foreign investors realise their individual goals by listening to them and providing legal advice, which gives them the opportunity to meet such goals. In order to clarify and facilitate these goals, the Legal Challenges Group will edit the necessary documents, review and draft all required contracts, no matter who they are for, and put them back to the client for further consideration. The result is a client who is confident in the service they’re receiving and satisfied with the level of services provided. It’s acting as a one-stop-shop for this sort of thing that really makes a difference. What helps the firm expand, gaining the loyalty of current clients and raising the profile to new ones, is its good reputation, gained from the success they’ve had regarding most of the issues they’ve been engaged to work on.
The challenges facing Areej are not unformidable. Kuwaiti women, despite being members of the legal profession, cannot have anything to do with its law making, or decisionmaking. No woman holds the position of judge, and no women are retained by the advisory committees in the government. Women have yet to penetrate the masculine markets of oil and real estate. It’s a sorry state of affairs that Areej is trying her best to counter. Talking at conferences, publishing magazines on legal experiences, she is attempting to get the word out there that she is available for business and so are a range of women who have been left behind in this malecentric world.
Looking forward, there are a lot of possibilities. The state of Kuwait is one of the wealthiest and has a very sophisticated business people in the private sector. Currently, the country is witnessing a steady growth by diversification of its economy. It is in these conditions that Areej aims to make it big. Not content with being hugely influential and passing down her knowledge to others, she wants her law firm to become one of the most important in the world. It’s a tough fight to make it to the top, but she’s come so far already, she’s on her way. Certainly, she seems set to buck the trend regarding the male-centric society and is successfully fighting to enhance the role of women in the industry. One of the things she teaches her staff is to fight for success, and clearly Areej leads by example.
In a man’s world, it can be difficult for a woman to make headway, and even more difficult to make a difference. Areej Hamada has managed both and looks set to continue this trend heading into the future. With the exciting new venture of her new magazine, continuing to talk and organise conferences, all while running a successful law firm, it’s seems clear that Areej Hamada won’t be slowing down for a long time yet.