Natasha Shirazi is Legal Director at Orascom Construction, a global construction contractor operating across 25 jurisdictions. Prior to moving in-house, she was formerly a full-time arbitration practitioner in Cairo, before which she practiced at a leading law firm in Sydney, and worked at the United Nations Headquarters with the Office of the Legal Counsel in New York. Natasha has handled a spectrum of disputes, including international investment and commercial arbitrations, under ad hoc and various institutions including ICSID, ICC, CRCICA, LCIA and DIAC. She is a solicitor of the Law Society of NSW, a Fellow of the CIArb, and an accredited mediator.
Natasha serves on the Task Force of the ICC Commission on ADR and Arbitration, she sits on the CIArb Egypt Branch Committee, and is an Egypt Branch YMG Representative.
Why have you decided to specialise in arbitration and adjudication? Tell us about your legal journey to ADR.
My journey to ADR began with a late night google session! I had been practicing for some time at an excellent Sydney law firm, until late one night after a gruelling day at the office, I dreamt of taking a year break to do an LLM in the Middle East. A few hours of googling later, I had enrolled myself in the Master of Laws Program in International and Comparative Law at the American University in Cairo, Egypt. I packed my suitcase and off I went for my one-year adventure. During my time at the AUC, I was introduced to leading arbitration practitioner and true arbitration all-star, Dr Karim Hafez, who hired me to work for his boutique firm (the first arbitration firm of its kind in the region) and who graciously took me under his wing. My “one year adventure” in Cairo became 15 years. My love for arbitration was almost immediate, and I have never looked back since.
What do you consider to be the biggest challenge in your career?
Interestingly, one of the biggest challenges in my arbitration career was the plunge in-house. As an arbitration practitioner, I loved disputes, and had grown fond of juggling and closing a wide variety of client disputes, across the spectrum of industries. Once I moved in-house, I quickly realised that dispute prevention was the real goal! I found myself having to learn in-depth the nuances and intricacies of the construction industry, collaborating closely with experts in the field across very different jurisdictions, and having to ensure that from day one of any transaction, all the building blocks for a healthy legal environment were in place.
How has a membership with the CIArb benefitted your career?
One of best aspects of my CIArb membership was, without a doubt, completing the Oxford Diploma in International Commercial Arbitration at Queen’s College. The Diploma was an incredible opportunity to immerse myself in the academic side of the practice of arbitration, on the breathtaking grounds of Oxford University, surrounded by the best ADR professionals in the field. It was an amazing platform to meet and became close friends with other practitioners from across the globe, all the way from Australia, to Canada, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, learning, studying and sharing with one another. The benefit of our alumni continues today, whereby I have a network of friends across the globe at any time I need ADR related advice, assistance or moral support!
What is the best thing about being a Member/Fellow of the CIArb?
One unique aspect of being a Fellow of the CIArb, and being a member of the Egypt Branch, is the opportunity to interact with ADR professionals who are not lawyers. In our Egypt Branch, the majority of CIArb members are in fact engineers. As a lawyer, I find this diversity to be enriching to my own experience.
Are there any interesting developments in your CIArb Branch?
There’s been a plethora of interesting developments at the CIArb Egypt Branch, especially of interest to our younger members. This year the Egypt Branch launched its Mentorship Program, the first structured program of its kind for CIArb Branches in the region. The Mentorship Program provides a unique platform for young CIArb Members interested in arbitration and ADR, to connect with and learn from the experience of more senior members of the CIArb community – so far, the program has proven to be a great success for the Mentors, Mentees and Mentor Supporters involved. This year the Egypt Branch also established a Young Members Group (YMG) for the under 40s CIArb members. The YMG provides a forum for Egypt Branch Members to connect, participate and benefit from activities catered to them, both within our Branch and in conjunction with other Branches.
Tell us about your interests, hobbies or activities outside of work.
Travel, experiencing new cultures, and meeting new people is an undeniable pleasure in life. This is one of the reasons why arbitration was so appealing to me. It allows you to move seamlessly across jurisdictions, and venture into new territories that you would never expect.
If you could experience first-hand one historical event what would it be and why?
Given the global COVID pandemic, I would have to say, that we have already experienced first-hand one unforgettable historical event!