LLM Construction LawMohamad El Daouk, Lebanon

Tell us a little bit about your background...
I am an international student from Beirut, Lebanon. Prior to living in the UK, I had spent eighteen years living in four different countries (Lebanon, UAE, USA and Saudi Arabia). Life in each of those countries exposed me to different experiences that helped create the person I am today. In the UK, I read law during my undergraduate studies before studying construction law at Strathclyde. Following the Construction Law LLM, I attained an MSc in Project and Enterprise Management at UCL. Currently, I am pursuing a PhD in Land Economy and Property Law at the University of Cambridge.

What made you choose to study Construction Law at Strathclyde?
Life in Saudi Arabia provided various opportunities to experience work in the built environment and construction industry. During the holidays I would either intern at firms in Jeddah or shadow my father who was a director at a leading Saudi contractor. Those experiences exposed me to the adversarial, individualistic and transactional nature of the construction industry. The only people that ever seemed to be happy in any given context were the construction lawyers – who unlike other project practitioners – transcended the distress and hefty disputes. Rather so, they were either paid to avoid disputes, or paid to resolve them; hence, non-contentious and contentious construction legal work. The construction industry needs more “win-win” and “pain-gain” sharing approaches, and I saw just about that in the non-contentious construction legal work. Afterwards, I ended up deciding that I want to pursue a career somewhere in the legal–construction nexus. In light of that, it made sense to choose a degree in construction law.

What made you want to progress to postgraduate study?
The two key factors that played a role in deciding to progress to postgraduate study were my genuine interest in construction law, which is only solely offered at postgraduate level, and the risible expectations of contemporary job-recruiters. The former factor would have led me to progress to postgraduate studies in any case. Yet, the latter factor stems from the numerous hurdles that international students must overcome in the UK, in order to stand an equal ground to home students with regard to finding jobs. Having said that, I particularly chose the Construction Law LLM offered at Strathclyde due to it being the oldest and most comprehensive one of its kind in the UK.

Tell us a little bit about how your scholarship supported your studies...
It's presumed that a scholarship financially supports a student by offering a partial/full remission of their tuition fees. In addition to that, my scholarship also provided me with invaluable opportunities to represent my cohort, and to aid the University in improving the Construction Law LLM for forthcoming students. It was that work in particular, which drove me to study harder in order to make sure that there were good proposals being raised to the Student-Staff Liaison Committee.

Do you have a highlight of your time at Strathclyde?
A highlight that stands out at Strathclyde was when our cohort had to carry out a mock adjudication as part of a summative assessment. I was the youngest in my cohort and the majority were in the later stages of their professional careers. Up to that point, the cohort had been fairly formal and distant. During the preparation time and build-up for that adjudication, the cohort finally came together and became more sociable. The competitiveness during the actual mock adjudication was very funny as much as it was educational. Seeing those professional individuals commit many bloopers and laughing it off after the assessment at a classic Glaswegian pub reminded me of how everyone there was a human after all, and how we are all young competitors at heart.

What specialist knowledge/professional skills did you develop on the programme?
The principal trait that I developed on the programme was the ability to grasp and continuously gain new multidisciplinary knowledge in a narrow area of the law. Up to that point law was a very broad subject to me, and even though construction law may seem narrow, it is far deeper than one thinks at the outset. Confidence and communication skills were important skills that materialised in the mock adjudication.

What would be your advice for people considering taking this course?
This may seem candid but do your homework. It is important to do research upfront before choosing this course, let alone the place you will be studying that course in. This is my one piece of advice because there are three types of expectations: expectations that materialise as expected, expectations that end up not materialising at all, and expectations that materialise differently to what one would have originally anticipated. It is important to know what the course will involve and how such involvement will be assessed. Being left unaware of such particularities could reflect negatively at the end of the course. In my case, this was the difference between attaining a merit and a distinction in the first and second master’s degrees. A final word of advice is to never leave a deadline or the dissertation till the deadline. The whole point of construction law is to appreciate working on time, and to learn how to extend time when it does not suffice. There are no extensions of time in the LLM!

What are you doing now?
I am currently working towards a doctorate at the University of Cambridge. My research focuses on comparative property law. The PhD amalgamates different aspects of the degrees I had previously undertaken. Up until this year, I had faced a serious dilemma of whether I should begin my professional career first and then pursue a doctorate; or to initially work towards a doctorate and then pursue my professional career. I was recently hired as a graduate consultant and expected to start my career at a leading infrastructure consulting firm. However, that never happened due to the global pandemic. Hence, it only made sense for me to do the PhD and I have been very content with my decision ever since.

What are your ambitions for the future?
I seek to complete my doctoral studies and pursue my professional career afterwards. I aim to find a role where I can be happy and apply everything I had learnt up to that point at university. It is uncertain where life will take me when considering the uncertain times, we are living in, nevertheless; I do not feel rushed and I am taking life as it comes.

Any final points or words of wisdom?
If you do end up coming to Strathclyde, please do make sure you enjoy your time! Glasgow is a great city and Scotland is a beautiful country. When you are not studying, go out and experience the people’s hospitality, the Scottish cuisine, and the breathtaking views around the country. As for my final thoughts on the LLM, I wish there would be more practical assessments like the mock adjudication on the programme. Such assessments can be very pragmatic and reflect professional skills that are actually transferrable to the real world. So, when you do reach that assessment, make the best of it!