Sat, 08 October 2022
Rashed Abdul Rahman Ebrahim is one of the Kingdom’s finest lawyers. An arbitrator, licensed before the Court of Cassation and the Constitutional Court, he has a storied history in the field.
George Middleton spoke to him to learn about his career and law in a sit-down chat this month.
Could you tell our readers about yourself and your firm?
Law is not just a career but rather a way of life, passion for negotiation and a strong belief in ethics.
I graduated with LLB from the University of Baghdad in 1968, and later continued my education at London School of Economics and Kings’ College in the United Kingdom. I played a prominent role in the establishment of notary public offices and was appointed as the first notary public at the Ministry of Justice in 1971 - the same year in which I was appointed as a Director of Bahrain courts.
In 1974, the Rashed Abdul Rahman Ebrahim law office was established in Bahrain to specialise in advising corporations and individuals on matters related to banking law, Islamic finance, insurance law, construction law, commercial law, corporate law, company registration and international commercial arbitration.
Over the course of a 48-year career, I have participated in many local and international arbitration cases as both, counsel and arbitrator, in Bahrain and abroad and had the pleasure of meeting many local and international clients.
In 1971, you became the first ever notary in Bahrain. How did this pioneering move change and develop law in the Kingdom of Bahrain?
The idea came up during a consultation between myself and a member of the Ministry of Justice at the time. The establishment of the notary offices were looked into and approved shortly after, so I was sent to the Kuwaiti Notary Public for training, as they had the model that we were looking to replicate, and later appointed as the first notary in Bahrain.
The establishment of the Public Notary in Bahrain, was a great development in the legal sector as it provided an official notarisation and attestation services office for the public that is easily accessible to issue and notarise various certifications, powers of attorney, contracts and memorandums etc. What we established greatly streamlined procedures.
You were appointed to be part of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Paris in early 2012. What can you tell us about this?
ICC appointed me a member of its Court of Arbitration and I participated for seven years as a member, travelling to Paris every other month to attend court meetings. As an arbitrator, I had to be aware of the constitution of the court and all countries who are members of the ICC, which required a lot of hard work on my end.
This was the beginning for me in the realm of international arbitration which paved the way for my participation in ICC Bahrain. In 1999, the Kingdom established ICC Bahrain which I joined in 2012 as a member of the court. The establishment of ICC Bahrain is significant for the promotion of international arbitration more broadly, as a conduit for strengthening the rule of law in the region and beyond.
You have participated in many local and international arbitration cases as both: counsel and arbitrator. How has this participation been instrumental in your career?
When I started in the international arbitration field, arbitration was a little-known field of practice in the region. The few of us who were doing it were nearly all general practitioners, and arbitration was just a side-line. In subsequent years, arbitration has developed into a sophisticated and important practice area and has now become one of the principal means in resolving high level commercial disputes.
As a founding member of the Bahrain Bar Association, member of the International Court of Arbitration at ICC, the GCC Arbitration Committee, member of BCDR board of trustees, the Cairo Regional Centre for International Commercial Arbitration and a lawyer in general, I learnt to keep in mind that the law and the needs of clients are always evolving.
Ultimately, the objective is to distinguish oneself in the practice, which requires an ability to embrace rejection with persistence and resilience. In the race to do well, it is critical to be patient and to work hard.
Over the last 48 years, what are some of the greatest developments you have seen in Bahrain, where law is concerned?
From 1968 to 2022 there have been a whole lifetime of developments! Of course, there are key judicial and legislative developments that changed the legal system in the Kingdom such as the issuance of administrative reform decrees by HH the late Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa. Decree No. (2) stipulated the establishment of a justice department that includes three departments: the courts, the real estate registry, and the funds of minors. in 1971, the Ministry of Justice was established, which replaced the Department of Justice and the Notary Public Act (Notary Public) was issued.
1989 was very exciting, when the court of cassation was created to monitor the application of the law itself and the highest level of the judicial system. For lawyers, that was a great achievement for Bahrain’s legal and judicial system and we were very proud to be a part of it. During that period, and until the late 90s, many laws were issued including civil and commercial law and all the other laws that we work with today.
Later in the 2000s we witnessed a new chapter of developments by HM King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa beginning with the establishment of a supreme judiciary council followed by the new action charter and the establishment of a constitutional court. This is in addition to several developments and achievements regarding laws, and the judicial and legal system which followed.
The establishment of ICC Bahrain in 1999 and BCDR in 2009 was a huge leap in the development of international arbitration and dispute resolution in the kingdom and the region. It was a great opportunity for us lawyers to have the option of alternative dispute resolution in commercial and international cases right here at home!
The developments from the 70s until now are huge and I am grateful for being a part of and witnessing such great leaps in the history of the legal and judicial system in the kingdom.
How has the trend changed in terms of women seeking careers in law over the years?
If I remember correctly. there was a study which showed that more than half the lawyers and many judges in Bahrain are women. Legally, Bahraini women are recognised in the Bahraini Constitution as equal to Bahraini men with equal opportunities in their professions.
In my personal opinion the legal system in Bahrain supports women in their career development as lawyers, arbitrators and judges, we have a number of practicing lawyers, judges and public prosecutors all hardworking, extremely professional high achievers.
We are encouraging the promotion of women in these sectors and there is no limit to what they can achieve. My daughter and wife are both lawyers, and two of my grandchildren are studying law too!
As one of the most prolific commercial lawyers in the Kingdom, what is some of the best advice you can give people who would normally seek your service?
My best advice for anybody with a legal issue is to try and settle it amicably rather than through litigation. It’s not because courts are complicated, but the timing and costs increase exponentially the longer it goes on. Settling amicably avoids lengthy litigations, time is money too!
You were previously the director of courts at the Bahraini Ministry of Justice, and a member of the board of directors of the Bahraini Bar Association. What would be your advice to young Bahrainis pursuing a career in law?
For those wishing to practice law, a graduate needs to acquire litigation experience, which can be acquired domestically or internationally. Having litigation skills prepares a lawyer well for any field of law including arbitration.
It is further, of course, highly desirable to have a good knowledge of different languages specifically English since many documents and contracts are now drafted in English. It also helps if you can find intellectual satisfaction in your chosen field of practice as I have been lucky to do in the fields of commercial law and arbitration. It makes it so much easier to work when it is a pleasure to do so!
Finally, I would advise any upcoming lawyer never to stop reading to educate themselves further as law is a continuously developing subject. So, my advice is be patient, informed and flexible.
You have had a very illustrious career to date. As someone who has already achieved so much, what are your ambitions in the near future?
To see my children and grandchildren take over from me so I can take a back seat or maybe specialise in arbitration only! In all seriousness, my ambitions are very simple - to continue working; my work is my happy place and I’m most comfortable when I’m busy solving a problem or planning a case strategy.