Off hours: Dubai law firm founder strives to keep life ship-shape

Jasamin Fichte is the founder and managing partner of Fichte & Co – a Dubai-based law firm with seven partners and more than 40 staff. She founded it in 2005. Ms Fichte, from Germany, is a maritime law specialist qualified in German and English law and has represented shipowners, trading houses and ports. She also set up the UAE’s Women in Shipping and Trade Association in 2010 and last year was chairwoman of the Dubai Maritime Advisory Council.

How do you spend your weekend?

As I am a full-time working mum I try my best to keep my weekends free of meetings or other work commitments and focus fully on my five-year old daughter to have quality time with her and my husband, who travels a lot. Our weekends are dominated by birthday parties and play dates. Spending some time in our garden is bliss until my daughter and her friends take over.

How did you become a managing partner?

I worked for law firms in Hamburg and London and moved to Dubai because my sister had moved here previously. Mine is a typical expat story – I was supposed to visit her for two months but 15 years later I am still here. After working as in-house counsel for three years, I was not satisfied with the service offered by law firms I had to instruct and I believed that the work could be done in a different way: being focused on clients’ needs, offering value for money and a detailed knowledge of UAE law. I was amazingly lucky as I had strong support from UAE-based shipowners who agreed and supported me when I established my own firm.

What is your go-to gadget?

I am glued to my BlackBerry, to the constant criticism of my daughter. For social media I use the iPhone 6. I constantly juggle with an office and a private laptop, an iPad and these two phones. But contrary to my partners, who prefer the iPhone, I am still a BlackBerry lover.

What was the lowest point of your career?

Starting a business is a never-ending rollercoaster. We had an amazing start as we were just on top of the Dubai boom. But in Dubai, it takes about three years for other companies to take you seriously and to give you work, so you need to keep an eye on cash flow constantly. The credit crunch nearly tore us apart as I had made a promise to all staff not to have any redundancies, which caused hardship.

What advice would you give to others starting out in your business?

I am a typical “outlier” in the legal industry as I was in the right place at the right time. Ten years on, literally every international firm has opened up and the market is heavily saturated. So you need to find a gap, but you also need to be an expert in your field.

What is your most indulgent habit?

Spending time with my girlfriends. Thankfully, we live in the same neighbourhood and our kids are more or less the same age. There is no need to ever explain how I feel as all of us are struggling to combine motherhood, work and family and to fit it all into a short day. I also recently took up horse riding again, but I am really doing it to be able to ride with my daughter and spend quality time with her.

What do you have on your desk at work?

Too much of everything. Too many phones, three screens, too many files, too many things to do and too many things labelled “urgent”.

What car do you drive?

As a German, I feel obliged to drive a German car and I am deeply in love with my Porsche Cayenne. It drives like a sports car but fits my daughter and the endless things I seem to carry around at all times.

What can’t you live without?

My family. As much as I love my job and my company, my life is only complete since my husband and daughter came into it.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

Whoever says that a work-life balance is achievable is either an illusionist or lives in a parallel universe. The first and hardest step is to let go and to admit that it is impossible to achieve 100 per cent as managing partner, mother and wife at the same time. The next step is to delegate whatever you can and not micromanage. And the most important revelation was that everybody is replaceable and that my company is able to survive without me being involved in everything.

If you could swap jobs with anyone, who would it be and why?

I wanted to be a lawyer since I was 10 and there was never any alternative. I still love my job and could not see myself in any other profession. The only challenge I would love would be to work with Sheikh Mohammed as he is the most inspiring leader.


Michael Fahy

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