Sara Falaknaz: Looking Ahead

Sara Falaknaz

AALM: What prompted your transition from a government sector to private practice as an in-house role? What drew you to the Al Ghandi Group?

SF: One of the questions I regularly face is what is the main reason I have transitioned from government to the private sector. Joining the private sector was not an easy decision; however, I do believe that transitions are part of success and career growth. I am grateful for joining Al Ghandi Group, a well-known family-owned business in the United Arabi Emirates, and I am looking forward to the opportunities I will be able to learn and implement in my career in the various sectors of the group such as automation, automotive, lease, and many more both locally and globally. Taking on a short-term discomfort and challenging myself to gain long-term career growth in various areas.

AALM: What lessons from your work with Dubai Airports will you take to your new role? How will your experiences there shape your work in your new company?

SF: I am glad that I have experienced working at Dubai Airports one of the busiest airports and I have learned a lot from my five-year journey. I have learned how to prioritize my work based on what will add the most value to the business, especially when dealing with competent authorities both locally and globally. Further, my experience and knowledge in reviewing and drafting the various types of international agreements and policies will be invaluable in my new role especially since Al Ghandi Group deals with many international companies in various sectors.

AALM: What are your main goals when working with a law firm? How has that relationship changed over the years and what changes do you anticipate in the future?

SF: Competence and expertise are two of the most important factors. We retain and work with law firms that have strong experience in litigation in the UAE jurisdictions to represent us in the UAE courts. Close communications with us as well as having a strategic plan for our legal cases and the way to move forward for the company’s best interest will determine how long the relationship will remain and if it will change over the years. Frequent contact ensures that the discussed strategy and course of action we have agreed on are being implemented in a cost-effective and efficient manner. Ensuring that everyone in the law firm understands that the top priority for the firm is the clients’ and company’s best interests in all aspects.

In the future, reducing the legal cases is our main target as we are seeking to settle the disputes amicably. Managing and controlling the cost of external counsel. Advising the board and management team on relevant legal issues and risks as a contribution to their strategic and business planning. Giving proactive legal advice so that issues are highlighted and managed earlier.

AALM: What kind of culture are you trying to build in your legal department?

SF: Building a positive law firm culture begins with adopting positive relationships with trust and being successful at work comes from working and developing as a team as group success is what drives the business forward. Nowadays, we need to listen to and appreciate the other department’s needs to provide useful legal advice and to recommend the appropriate course of action to be taken for the group both in the short and long term. Today, the business units expect and demand exceptional legal services and this is why customer service and communication both internally and externally is vital. The legal department of the company is better positioned to be the guardians of the company’s business and long-term interests and values.

AALM: Tell us about any mentors you’ve worked with through your career and the best advice they shared with you.

SF: I always refer back to my uncle Dr. Habib Al Mulla in any legal inquiry, whether it is related to my career or my personal life since he is one of the well-known lawyers and has expertise in both litigation and corporate. I previously worked at Abdelaziz Al Hanaee Advocates and Legal Consultancy and worked closely with Mr. Abdelaziz during my employment in which he has always motivated me toward my goals, and he advised me that “I should prove my worth in the company and I am responsible to impress my employer by my outcome, as  success is defined by the outcome of my job and not what I say.”

AALM: What drew you to a legal career? How is your career different today than you envisioned in law school?

SF: I was always passionate about studying law and becoming a lawyer as it is a challenging profession as it develops demonstrable critical thinking and decision-making skills in helping others. At the same time, it is a diverse field of study that involves a person being updated in different fields such as economics, politics, business, etc. Today the career has changed since many court hearings and submissions are online. Lawyers are no longer pleading, lawyers are seeking to settle the disputes not only through litigation but through other resolution methods such as mediation, arbitration, etc. However, especially in the UAE the growth and expansion of the lawyers kept pace with the change.

AALM: What are some of your personal career goals? What’s the next milestone you’re looking to achieve?

SF: In my new job, my main goal is to provide the company with the highest quality legal representation that will add value to the company’s vision and mission. My next milestone would be to lead a larger team and to serve as a board member for several committees so I can better serve the country in the legal field.

AALM: If you could go back and change anything about your career, what would it be?

SF: There is nothing I would want to change. However, I am glad that I had the opportunity to work in different sectors and organizations which helped my career path.

AALM: Tell us about your life outside the office.

SF: Work is a fundamental part of the way we live, but having a healthy work-life balance encourages and supports a good culture both professionally and personally. As a mother of two children, I do my best to maintain my life, professionally and personally as I totally believe that the key to happiness and success in the career is to balance.

AALM: Anything else to add?

SF: You should always expand your knowledge and take advantage of your career and not limit it. You are accountable and responsible for your career growth therefore, you should always seek new opportunities and set goals. Approach your goals with a step-by-step plan and activities and discuss them with people of expertise Challenge yourself, learn the skills of today and tomorrow and be able to change and adapt!

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