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GCC Lawyers to Participate in ACC's First In-house Counsel Certification Program in Dubai

T he ACC In-house Counsel Certification Program will welcome its first participants on April 30 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The four-day program for in-house lawyers working in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — which includes the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman — will feature education and training specific to the “critical areas” of in-house practice.

To help determine those critical areas, and to ensure that the training incorporates the highest standards of professional excellence, the curriculum for the certification program was developed under the guidance of an advisory group: the ACC Education Advisory Council (EAC). Here, Council Member Salah S. Mostafa, director and head of legal (NEMEA) at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, shares more about the certification program, why he wanted to be involved in its development, and why lawyers in GCC should consider participating.

Salah S Mostafa ACC: In May of 2017, ACC announced its partnership with the government of Dubai Legal Affairs Department on a new credentialing program for corporate counsel working in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). What made you want to serve on the Advisory Council for this innovative initiative, and why was it important for you to be involved with developing its curriculum?

Salah S. Mostafa: As you point out, it is the “innovative nature” of the initiative. Broadly speaking, in-house lawyers who want to improve their skills have traditionally had one of two options: either to attend courses on specific legal topics, or to tag-along general training courses organized by their companies on topics such management, strategy, self-awareness, and the like. It is rare to encounter a program that helps in-house lawyers explore the host of non-legal aspects of their jobs — all from the angle of fellow in-house lawyers. ACC’s program bridges exactly that particular gap.

ACC: As a member of the ACC Education Advisory Council (EAC), you helped identify the essential and critical skills for in-house counsel that ACC’s In-house Certification Program will address. The core competency areas explored in the curriculum include developing stakeholder relationships (building the emotional intelligence and people management skills needed to navigate organizational culture and translate legal knowledge into business solutions); law department management (learning best practices for effectively running a legal department, including strategic planning, financial and project management, and HR skills); and legal services (addressing the legal function of in-house practice through trainings focused on ethics and compliance, negotiation, and risk management).

In your opinion, why are these skills, or core competencies, essential for in-house success? In other words, what separates good lawyers from great ones?

Mostafa: In today’s world, traditional reactive “lawyering” is a luxury that in-house lawyers cannot afford. Given the ever-increasing pressure on resources, the uncertainty of the external environment, and the constantly changing regulatory landscape (especially in Emerging Markets), and in order to manage risks efficiently as well as capture opportunities, in-house lawyers have to evolve beyond the historic role of in-house lawyers.

In order to do so, in-house lawyers must constantly develop and acquire new skills, especially in areas such as strategy, change management, management, and influencing stakeholders. Basically, in-house lawyers need to learn how to get things done!

ACC: What sets this program apart: Why should in-house counsel in GCC consider this certification, both for themselves and for others within their departments?

Mostafa: The program features an array of topics that are essential to most in-house counsel in the GCC (and more broadly Emerging Markets). The program offers practical tools and valuable insights into topics such as how to support complex and unpredictable operations, work with and influence a truly diverse group of stakeholders, and manage external stakeholders.

But perhaps the most exciting part of the program is that it was conceived, designed, and will be taught by professionals with skin-in-the-game.

ACC: An overview of the program’s curriculum as well as a full schedule of sessions, which can be found at That said, can you offer any additional insight on what participants can expect? I understand you’re speaking during a session on international negotiations and contract management. Can you offer a preview of the session?

Mostafa: Yes. In a nutshell, successful negotiations depend to a great extent on striking a balance between achieving the business objectives and managing risks efficiently. The ultimate goal is to enter into sustainable commercial relationships that endure conflict and change. But technical and professional capabilities are not enough. A high level of appreciation of cultural nuances and understanding of how business is conducted in different countries are essential skills that negotiators must possess. In-house lawyers — with their hands on the pulse of their companies and their sensitivity to risks — are invaluable team members in any commercial negotiation. However, in order to increase their value and impact in negotiations, in-house lawyers also need to develop a solid understanding of the cultural references that inform their counterparties’ behavior. In addition, successful negotiations are underpinned by robust contract management systems. Employing the correct process and educating the team members on it are key success factors in negotiations that in-house lawyers need to think about at the beginning of each negotiation.

ACC: Certifications like this one, as well as advanced degrees in general, are options for lawyers who want to strengthen their business knowledge and increase their professional marketability. Have you noticed a trend of more lawyers in your professional networks and beyond who have completed similar certifications or obtained MBAs, for example? 

Mostafa: As I mentioned before, the world around us is changing rapidly. Know-how has a shorter “shelf-life” and skills become obsolete at a faster pace. Lawyers like other professionals are constantly trying to add new strings to their bows, and there has certainly been a rising trend amongst lawyers to obtain professional certifications.

To learn more about the ACC In-house Counsel Certification Program, visit

About the Authors

Tiffani R. AlexanderTiffani Alexander is the editor in chief of ACC Docket.

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