Adel Abdulhadi: Defending Rights, Defining Principles

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Defending someone’s rights and ensuring justice is served require a deep commitment and passion for helping others. It is a noble profession that requires hard work, dedication, and a strong sense of ethics. Adel Abdulhadi, the founder of Al Oula Law Firm, is a living example of how a lawyer can bring about a positive change in society and stand tall to defend people’s rights.  

Adel Abdulhadi grew up in a large family of 11 children and had a strong desire to defend his as well as others’ rights. His journey towards the legal industry began at a young age when he was accepted into the law program at Kuwait University while he was inclined to pursue his dream major, which was commerce and trading with a minor in political science. Though he had not intended to study law, Adel accepted the offer, believing it would be useful for his future business endeavours. Mr.

Adel Abdulhadi started working at a young age and became a business owner before going to the university. This came as a challenge when the university later dismissed him, citing a rule that prohibited students from studying and working at the same time. Adel Abdulhadi disagreed with this decision and filed a lawsuit against the university, citing his constitutional rights to work and study simultaneously. He ultimately won the case and was reinstated as a student, solidifying his desire to pursue a career in law.

Adel Abdulhadi: Sailing Against The Wind

Adel Abdulhadi faced some of the biggest adversities of his life during Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. As people were being killed and businesses pillaged, Adel and his brother started losing their assets due to rampant incidents of theft. To survive the war period, they decided to sell what was left of their assets to provide for the needs of their family, neighbors, and the people in the vicinity. Adel Abdulhadi and his brother shared and distributed what they had, assisting people in managing and surviving the crisis. Even though Adel Abdulhadi lost his business, the incident deeply affected him and made an everlasting impression on his life.

Getting In The Legal Business

After completing his legal studies, Adel Abdulhadi started working with the legal team of the Ministry of Defense and then served as a legal advisor in various government organizations. Despite excelling at his job, he realized that employment did not allow him to utilize his full potential and enthusiasm. Therefore, he decided to resign and establish his own law firm. “When I first founded my law firm, the primary challenge was to attract clients and maintain a consistent flow of work. The legal industry was highly competitive and there were already established law firms that had their rich history and vast experiences.” says, Adel Abdulhadi. 

Adel Abdulhadi further explains, “I worked on thinking through a businessman’s mindset and decided to build a reputation of a lawyer who could turn “lost cases” into “winning cases, even if the win was through the highest court’s level.” His plan worked and his reputation grew as a lawyer who could achieve the impossible and triumph in cases in their last breath. 

Today, the 2002-founded Al Oula Law has established itself as one of the most successful law firms in Kuwait. The law firm provides legal advice to a range of clients, including local, regional, and multinational companies and organizations, as well as individuals. Its International Department maintains relationships with both domestic and foreign entities, offering them top-notch legal services that cater to their specific needs in Kuwait. It has also established partnerships with law firms across the globe to deliver the best possible legal counsel in various foreign jurisdictions. 

Coming Into The Limelight 

After the US intervention in Iraq in 2003, the Kuwait stock exchange started flourishing, attracting local and international businessmen. However, the losses were devastating when the financial crisis hit in 2008.

With no action or word from the government, central bank, or any economist in the country, Adel felt outraged. Being a lawyer, he decided to file a lawsuit requesting closure of the stock exchange to stop the bleeding. He represented several traders in the Kuwait Stock Exchange and won the case. The court accepted the challenge and issued an order to halt trading and close the Kuwaiti Stock Exchange to protect the national economy from collapsing and investors from further losses. 

This turned out to be a historic judgment which was broadcast live on TV for the first and only time ever in Kuwait. After the judgment, Adel Abdulhadi started receiving calls from media all over the world requesting statements. The judgment incited the government and parliament to take a series of reformative long-awaited economic and financial measures and laws. Some people in Kuwait still recognize him as the lawyer who closed the Kuwait stock exchange. 

In 2010, Adel Abdulhadi joined the US legal team appointed by the US Ministry of Defense (Pentagon) to defend two remaining Kuwaiti citizens detained at Guantanamo Bay in 2002, as their local counsel in Kuwait. Assisted by members of the Al Oula Law, they exerted huge legal efforts and organized awareness campaigns in Kuwait, under which the citizens were released and repatriated to Kuwait. Adel Abdulhadi has also published a documentary book called “Flight 552” about the journey of working in the Guantanamo case, the biggest Human Rights case of the century.

Al Oula Law Firm follows a unique approach to legal work. While they do handle ordinary legal matters, they specialize in complicated and complex cases that require digging into the spirit of the law. This allows them more flexibility and sets them apart from other firms. When representing clients, the team at Al Oula Law Firm goes above and beyond, studying all aspects of their technical work and putting themselves in their client’s shoes. “We not only consider the legal perspective but also the technical point of view. We think like businessmen, contractors, traders, doctors, engineers, and more to protect our client’s best interests and cover any loopholes or fallouts with their legal knowledge.” says, Adel Abdulhadi. 

Apart from their legal services, the law firm is also involved in the greater good of the community. They consider themselves protectors of constitutional rights and show interest in observing the laws and resolutions issued by the parliament and ministries. If they find any contradictions with the Kuwait constitution, they challenge the same to ensure the citizens are fairly treated. 

Over the years, the firm has submitted many challenges against major laws and election processes in Kuwait, such as the Law banning Public Meetings and Gatherings No. 65/1979, Legislative Decree No. 24/2012 on the establishment of the Public Anti-Corruption Authority, Kuwait DNA Law No. 78/2015, Conflict of Interests Law No. 13/2018, and the dissolving of the parliament due to unconstitutional election procedures. These laws and measures were found unconstitutional and revoked by the Constitutional Court thanks to the efforts of the Al Oula Law Firm.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Adel Abdulhadi filed the first lawsuit against the Kuwait Government, requesting the lifting of the partial lockdown imposed in March 2021. He argued that the restrictions were issued without examining the COVID-19 statistics at that time. Such restrictions were affecting the business and social cycle in Kuwait. 

Many parties, including the Kuwait Bar Association and Kuwait Entrepreneurs Association, joined the case after filing it. Although the case was dismissed on the grounds that these restrictions were a matter of public interest, the court called out the health authorities to review the restrictions imposed in Kuwait, including curfew hours, closure of activities, and travel restrictions to keep a fair balance between public interest and people’s right to freedom of movement and personal liberty and the right to work. After a short period, the government lifted the restrictions.

“As I reflect upon my journey, I realize that certain principles have helped shape my path to success. Firstly, I believe in living without fear, as it holds us back from achieving our true potential. Secondly, I believe in the age-old adage that the best defense is a good offense – it is always better to take proactive measures rather than waiting for something to happen. Thirdly, the legal profession, while being a lucrative business, must be practiced with utmost dedication to the principles of justice and humanity. Lastly, I firmly believe that dreams are the key to unlocking our potential and achieving success.” says Adel. 

“In my personal life, success is feeling content and self-appreciated. Professionally, success is having a positive track record, loyal clients, good reputation, being a go-to firm for complex legal matters and an aggressive defender of people’s rights”, he adds.

Al Oula Law Firm has implemented various strategies to grow and sustain its success. Some of which are pointed out below. 

  • Looking for challenging cases: Taking up challenging cases helps the firm establish its strong foothold in the legal business. 
  • Investing in people: The firm follows an open knowledge exchange policy between the local law department and international law department, allowing every member the opportunity to learn and benefit from each other. 
  • Learning from losses: Victories and defeats, gains and losses are part of the legal profession. The firm analyzes losses to understand the judicial trends and adjust its future course accordingly.
  • Using technology: The firm uses best-in-class technology to be in constant contact with clients and serve them beyond time and place constraints.
  • Being involved in public matters: The firm keenly observes parliament and government actions and challenges them when necessary to make sure justice is fairly served. 

The Road Ahead

Adel Abdulhadi started the firm as a sole practitioner and transformed it into a partnership. Sharing the future plans, he shares, “With the recent legal development authorizing the establishment of professional companies in Kuwait, we are working on shifting the partnership to a professional company. I see expansion in our future and have plans to open offices in the UK and KSA. My long-term plan is for the Al Oula Law firm name to be known worldwide and be listed on major stock exchanges.”

Awards and Recognitions: Legal 500 Top Tier and Recommended Law Firm since 2015Leading Individual in the Legal 500 since 2018IFLR1000 notable law firm (From 2014 to 2017)Finalist Law Firm at ALB MIDDLE EAST LAW AWARDS 2023 (Thomson Reuters)Shortlisted Law Firm at The Legal 500 MENA Awards 2024 Recognized as a Contributor to World Bank publications: Benchmarking Public Procurement Project; Procuring infrastructure public-private partnerships indicator; and Doing Business reports Recognized as a Contributor to WJP in the areas of Constitutional Law, Civil Liberties, & Criminal Law

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