Launching your legal career in Dubai with Clifford Chance
Clifford Chance is one of the world’s preeminent law firms with lawyers across five continents and a presence in the Middle East for 40 years. The Clifford Chance Middle East Training Contract is a scheme that allows trainees to combine their Middle East training with two training contract seats in London. Aishling Morris, the firm’s graduate recruitment specialist, and Deborah Walker, a financial markets partner based in Dubai, tell you all about Clifford Chance Middle East below. Read their insights, find out if this exciting opportunity to establish your career in the Middle East is right for you and apply by 16 December 2018.
Interview with Aishling Morris, Graduate Recruitment Specialist
Will I spend my whole training contract in Dubai, ie all four seats?
You will study the GDL (if required) and the LLM CLP in London with the London trainee cohort.
Your will have two rotations in our London office and two will be based in Dubai, the Middle East's key regional office and the region's financial hub. This will enable you to have a truly international legal experience working alongside leading sector professionals from across two continents and allow you to launch your career as an England & Wales qualified lawyer in the Middle East.
In other words, will I still be qualified to work in the UK in future?
On completion of the training contract, you will be a qualified England and Wales lawyer and will be able to work in the UK in the future; however please note that we are only interested in candidates who are committed to developing their careers in the Middle East long-term and looking to qualify there.
What criteria are you looking for? Do I need to be an Arabic speaker? Do I need to be on a law degree?
You do not have to be studying a Law degree to apply to us, however you do have to be genuinely interested in a career in law and committed to pursuing this in the Middle East.
We are looking for individuals with an inquisitive mind, excellent communication skills and an interest in the economy or business world. Arabic language skills would be a plus but not essential. You'll also need to have a strong academic record and have obtained or be on target for a 2:1 (or equivalent) degree result or higher.
Can I apply to both London and the Middle East?
Please note you cannot apply for both a Middle East and a London training contract in the same academic year.
What does the recruitment process involve? And the deadline?
The recruitment process starts with the online application, which is immediately followed by an invitation to complete the Watson Glaser test. Should you meet our benchmark for the Watson Glaser, your application will then be reviewed. Please note, applications will only be reviewed after the deadline of midnight on 16 December 2018.
If your application is progressed, the next step is an assessment day in London, which will take place on 8 February 2019. Depending on your performance at the assessment day, the final stage of the process is an interview with a Dubai partner via video conference.
Interview with Deborah Walker – Partner, Financial Markets
Why did you choose to work for Clifford Chance, and why have you chosen to work in the Middle East?
I completed a number of vacation schemes at different London and regional law firms just so I could get a taste for what they were like. I ended up picking Clifford Chance because it felt right. The culture felt more open and diverse. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming.
In terms of the Middle East, I ended up completing my final seat there in the last year of my training contract. I had initially wanted to go to Hong Kong or Singapore but ended up choosing Dubai as it was the first time they were sending trainees there (and I got a car!). I really enjoyed being part of a smaller office. I was given more responsibilities than fellow trainees and even junior associates in London, and I was exposed to a wider variety of finance work. For instance, in Dubai we manage everything to do with a loan transaction whereas in London there are different departments that manage different aspects, such as project finance or restructuring.
Why should aspiring solicitors consider Clifford Chance?
Clifford Chance offers the same advantages as any other magic circle firm in terms of high profile, cutting edge work and the quality of the people who work there. At a magic circle firm, you will learn from the best.
As I said earlier, for me the biggest differentiator is our culture. It's really open and collaborative, and we have lots of people from different backgrounds. In addition, we offer world-class resources to assist trainees with their work and excellent quality training.
What are the advantages to training and working in the Middle East?
The thing about a smaller office is that you do have more responsibility and get greater client exposure. As a junior lawyer I had opportunities that aren't as common in London: for instance involvement in business development and client relationship management.
Also, you get to live in Dubai! It's a fantastic city, with fantastic quality of life – there's sunshine all year round. It's a travel hub so it's very easy to travel to different places. In addition, there is a large community of young professionals so it's a fun place to be.
Are there any challenges that Clifford Chance is facing that are specific to the Middle East?
Oil prices have a really big impact on our business. When prices are high, the government budget is going well and therefore it has more deposits to put into the bank so projects can continue. There is lots of funding and liquidity in the markets, which enables lending. When prices go down, the market slows down.
We are also impacted by political issues. For instance, during the Arab Spring the UAE was seen as relatively more stable therefore we saw more investment in the market.
We are impacted by pricing pressure – there is more pressure now on commoditised lending. Most of our business is regional and generated here; for example lots of project financing, G8 work in Saudi and Bahrain. We receive referrals from around the network – we have lots of business in Africa, lots going on in Egypt at the moment where there is a focus on rebuilding infrastructure and therefore renewables.
Will qualifying in the Middle East limit my future options?
Not at all. You get the same quality training regardless of where you are located.
In the banking practice, we practise English Law – the majority of loan agreements are based on it. However, we also need to understand UAE law, which is actually similar to European jurisdictions. Therefore, you get exposure to two different legal systems which helps to broaden your horizons and teach you different ways of approaching issues.
Will I be exposed to areas of law London trainees aren’t? Such as Islamic finance?
Absolutely. If you look at what I do, in terms of my practice, I started off doing project finance, which is one department in London. We've covered secured and unsecured corporate lending. I've also done acquisition finance, which again is another team in London, and real estate finance. Then when restructuring hit we had to learn about restructuring and insolvency transactions. Then of course there is Islamic finance; we have specialists in the firm who focus on this but we all need to be able to do it.
You end up doing a massive range of work which keeps the job really interesting!
What do you look for in an aspiring trainee, and are there any additional criteria specific to the Middle East?
I look for someone who is enthusiastic, hungry to learn and hardworking. It's so important to have strong organisational skills and be able to juggle lots of things at once. In London you might work on one very big matter, whereas in the ME – particularly in the finance team – we tend to work on a large number of smaller matters. You're always having to juggle and plan your day to meet deadlines. Attention to detail is also vital – you might have written a brilliant note from a legal perspective but, if it's full of typos, it is of no use.
Our trainees do need to be more flexible. You'll end up doing lots of different work which for some people is great – they love that variety. It's more difficult to become an expert in one subject due to the wide range of work that we do; however you will have a broad understanding of lots of different types of fields, which is exceptionally useful. You will need to enjoy having a breadth of knowledge and be able to regularly operate outside your comfort zone, as you never know when you'll have to learn something new.
Our juniors also have to develop business skills at a quicker rate, as they are more involved in business development at an earlier stage and have more client exposure.
It is really helpful if you speak Arabic; however, it's not vital. Meetings are generally conducted in English.
Making an application
If the opportunity to get the highest quality training in an exciting, busy environment in a fantastic city with the early responsibility that comes with working in a smaller office appeals to you, then don’t hesitate to apply before 16 December 2018.
Please note this is not TARGETjobs content and written by the employer.