Talal Abdulla Al-Emadi
Oil & Gas Law Professor and QU Press Director at Qatar University (QU)
Talal Abdulla Al-Emadi
Could you tell us about your journey to Oxford? Why did you choose to complete a DPhil in Law?
A few factors actually made me think of Oxford's law doctorate. First, I think I have this thing for being or doing something for the first time. After completing my bachelor degree in law at Qatar University, I was on an Amiri scholarship which supports national academic capacities. I wanted to make the most of such scholarship by becoming the first Qatari to enter Harvard Law. It was also during my Harvard time when I met professors who held an Oxford DPhil in Law. I was influenced by their charismatic and interpersonal skills. I knew then that Oxford Law hadn't been explored by a Qatari. After graduating from Harvard, the Amiri Diwan requested me on secondment as an advisor to a minister. I loved the opportunity of government exposure. Part of my task was to review documents and contracts. I was moved by how much investment Qatar has put in energy (mostly gas); yet, I noticed so little or almost no literature on the topic. My readings came across some important energy arbitration cases by an international lawyer and professor at Oxford, namely the late Ian Brownlie. I wrote a doctoral proposal on joint venture agreements in the gas industry and Oxford DPhil was the perfect choice.
What is your favourite memory of your time in Oxford?
I carry two main fond vivid memories: The birth of my first child, Aya, in an Oxford hospital and the healthy bike rides on and around campus. If I can add that I am also a coffee addict and Oxford has some hidden gems, which I enjoyed exploring with my wife and daughter.
What was the most important lesson you learnt during your time here?
Oxford has a perfect intellectual climate. It built in me the importance of being punctual and detailed in everything I do i.e. being systematic. I simply was blessed to have priceless one-to-one sessions with internationally renowned names supervising my Oxford work: Prof. Bettina Lange, Prof. Ewan McKendrick, Dr. Robert Stevens, and Sir Peter North.
What is your current role? What is a regular day like?
I wear a few hats: I am a law professor teaching in the area of investment and oil and gas law as well as a founding director for our university press - first of its kind in the region and inspired by OUP brand of course. In my first role, I love the exchange of ideas with the new generation of students which keeps me 'relevant' in the way I think and do my research. The second role exposes me to interact - mostly if not always virtually - with scholars of all fields and from around the globe. Third and most importantly, as a father of three (one who is in heaven), I get most of my energy from my kids. Homeschooling has been a great adventure. A regular day starts in the morning with catching up with emails for the QU Press, often with breaks for my lectures divided on certain days in a week. Now that we remain under the COVID-19 umbrella, almost everything I do is virtual and either from my work or home offices, with lots of coffee (of course). I like to end each day with books, a documentary or a bed-time story for Ibrahim.
What aspects of your degree in Law have been most useful to your career so far?
As much as law made me 'opinionated', I think it equally made me more open-minded to embrace and introduce new ideas. I studied law in three different jurisdictions: Qatar, USA and the UK. This exposure simply changed the way I think. I keep telling my students that we don't study law just to learn how to apply it (this is simple); rather, what we should aim for is the judgment and examination of whether or not the laws which we have before us actually are relevant. A good judge or lawyer is not the one who simply serve our laws, but the one who makes good laws to serve us - humans, animals or the climate.
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
I can list five moments: First, I am very proud of how I built my relationships with my students and colleagues in QU. Second, I am equally proud of establishing the oil and gas law course for my country. Third, founding a first of its kind university press in the region - based on leading university presses guidelines - is a success story for a team's dedication and university leadership trust. Fourth, the publication of my book (Joint Venture Agreement in the Qatari Gas Industry: A Theoretical and an Empirical Analysis) with Springer Nature, which was indexed in Scopus and reviewed in an Oxford journal - its thesis stems from my Oxford DPhil. Finally, representing my institution and country in the UN in the Qatari National Committee for Climate Change, and in particular, signing and ratifying the Paris Agreement in France was a huge milestone to the globe.
What professional or academic advice would you give to current Law students?
I always tell my students that if we don't label law to a certain career (lawyer or judge), we would be more creative and would enjoy more what we do with law studies and qualifications. We are blessed in an era where all fields beautifully intersect. You can become an environmentalist while using the law aspect to protect it, likewise with health, energy, business, government, and even fashion and so the list can go on and on. Also, law is more beautiful when it is employed to deliver a message: equality is an example.
Which figure(s) do you look up to?
I have always admired the late supreme justice of USA, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was an example of coolness, dedication and joy in the things she believed in and advocated for – e.g. equality. I also look up for every wise leader who is able to combine the technical, the human and conceptual aspects in his/her leadership. Three very hard angles one can have as 'three in one'.
What advice would you to give your past self?
With the benefit of hindsight, as they say, I could have been more relaxed on some of my own rules on getting things done. Time is indeed important but if something is not finished as planned, it is probably because it has a benefit one doesn't realize. Some delays, I can argue, could be 'unintended' investments.