Dr Habib Al Mulla, the executive chairman of Baker McKenzie, says diversity can benefit companies, the changing nature of the legal industry, and why he likens his job to a maze
Is there a moonshot idea that you are currently intrigued by? Are there any you are pursuing in your business?
The whole business – including the legal business – landscape in the UAE and in the region is rapidly changing. This change is driven partly by the innovation in technology and partly by the change in business norms and style. We need to be ahead of the curve and try to anticipate what changes are going to take place and how. Therefore, we are heavily focused on being a leading technology firm aiming at serving the increasing portfolio of technology clients in the region.
What does diversity mean to you? How are you pursuing this in your firm?
Diversity is about leveraging our individual differences – in gender, culture, languages and perspectives – for the benefit of the whole firm and for our clients. Baker McKenzie is very committed to providing the best environment for all of our employees, and we set aspirational targets towards this goal. For example, we’ve reached a milestone this year with 40 percent of our partner promotions globally being women – the most of any law firm.
With talk of trade wars, tariffs, oil price uncertainty and a new emerging demographic entering the workplace, how are you keeping up with the rapid pace of change?
Undoubtedly the rapid geopolitical and economic changes in the region and in the world pose a challenge to any business entity. We are a global firm that has the resources and skill to deal with all these challenges from a global perspective. Our existence in more than 75 jurisdictions gives us the ability to deal with these changes in a more efficient as well as comprehensive way because we are looking at them from a global rather than a local perspective.
What’s the story behind your business?
Our story is simple. We [UAE firm Habib Al Mulla] have a strong client base, and Baker McKenzie has the global resources. Hence we complement each other. The opportunity was there but we were the first to grasp it and make it happen. Now our clients can enjoy the benefits of a global firm but with a local point of contact, expertise and market knowledge.
If you were to explain your job to an eight-year-old in three sentences, what would you say?
Good question. I would say it is like solving a puzzle or walking through a maze.