Sameer Sattar recently became the first Bangladeshi to be listed in the ‘Asian Legal Business 40 Under 40’. In an exclusive interview, he spoke about how patience, perseverance, and prayers took him to where he is today
As a little boy, Sameer would often watch movies with his mother.
"Whenever a court scene came up, she was full of admiration for the lawyers. So, I kind of felt an affinity to the profession from my teenage years."
The affinity led Sameer to study law and today he is one the rising names in corporate law in the country. Recently, he became the first Bangladeshi ever to make it to the 'Asian Legal Business 40 Under 40' list, a Thomson Reuters publication.
The list recognises young lawyers who have worked on some of the most significant deals and disputes in the past year, and have earned accolades from their peers, superiors and clients.
He is also currently recognised and endorsed by Who's Who Legal, alongside Dr. Kamal Hossain.
In the past, Sameer had represented the Government of Bangladesh in a number of international arbitration. He is particularly proud of his work in the field of investment treaty arbitration under ICSID.
"I feel honored every time I represent my country," he said.
As a corporate lawyer, he also represents some of the biggest companies, both local and international.
Sameer first had the opportunity to study law during his A levels. From that point, the passion for the field only grew. He saw that law was something that he could use in every discipline of life.
"In my day to day life, I could relate many things to the laws I studied. I could make sense of my theoretical studies in my own life."
He studied LLB at the University of London. After coming back to Bangladesh, he started working for Barrister Ajmalul Hossain QC. Soon, he got opportunities to work in some major transactions and disputes in Bangladesh.
"Under my Senior, I was involved in some of the major deals and disputes. So, there was a good feeling about my contribution in major deals shaping the economy and as a result my passion for the profession flourished."
"Corporate law is specialised, mainly dealing with company matters – dealing with third parties, contracts, company employees etc.", he said in an attempt to differentiate corporate law from civil law. "Anything to do with business falls into corporate law."
Civil law embraces all the aspects of the civilians and acts according to civil procedural law, and corporate law is actually a part of it. "There are many branches or aspects of corporate law, for example, banking and
insurance law, banking and financial, employment laws, taxation law," he said.
When dealing with complex cases, he thinks out of the box.
"When you try to address something simply without complicating the thing in your head, it becomes easier. Most of the time, clients only want practical solutions to the problem, not some jargon from the books."
And this is a key characteristic that makes a good lawyer.
"You have to approach the case without linking that with prior examples. No case is the same and it is best to solve a problem first by using common logic."
During his time in London, he spent a short period working for Professor James Crawford, a sitting judge of the ICJ. Professor Crawford was the Whewell Professor of International Law at the University of Cambridge and
Fellow in Law at Jesus College, Cambridge. He was formerly Director of the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, also at Cambridge.
"I had the honor of working with him in a particular case," he said proudly.
"Professor Crawford once told me that I would only be able to work with him if I get a first class. He is considered an icon in the field of arbitration. So, I wanted to learn from him. I took the challenge very seriously."
After getting first class in his LLM from UCL, he spent some time working for him in Cambridge. For him, that was the hardest time in his life because he was trying to impress such a notable professor as a representative of Bangladesh.
"I had to work really hard to impress him. It was a very hardworking but fruitful period of my life."
Patience, perseverance, and prayers – Mr Sattar firmly believes in these three P's to achieve success. Becoming a lawyer is not an easy task, there are no breaks in this profession. "After the end of my education, I never looked for any other career opportunity from 2003 to now."
"Blessings and prayers of my mother and secondly, perseverance, and hard-work led me to the position where I am today. There are always ups and downs, but I never gave up. My wife also plays a very crucial role – without whose support, I would not be able to shine in my career."
He always had long term goals. In illustrating this point, he used some cricketing terms, "I never played T-20, I am a test player."
There are many in this profession in Bangladesh who are often willing to cut corners for easy financial gains. Many take recourse to politics to climb the ladder easily. "But if you want to be a successful lawyer, you have to be very diligent and focused. There is no substitute for hard work," he emphasized.
From his personal experiences working with his juniors, he said that he had some good juniors from Rajshahi University and Brac University.
"I do not want to generalise, but from my personal experience, these two institutions seem pretty good. But again, I am not endorsing any institutions."
The field is diverse and growing, there are a lot of opportunities to pursue. Someone can still use their knowledge of the law in other sectors too, may be in politics or business.
"Law is such a profession where you can make sense of anything."
"Actually, the sky is the limit" he said, describing the scope in the profession. But at the beginners' level, the financial rewards may be low in Bangladesh. As one grows older, there is huge potential. The initial struggle is mandatory for all."