Shearman & Sterling trainee Sophie Rees is on secondment
7 November 2012
After completing stints in real estate and finance in our London office, my third seat has brought me to Abu Dhabi.
I have now been here for almost six weeks and time is flying by. It has been a great experience so far.
I sit in the project development and finance group, an exciting place to be. As the sole trainee in the office, I work with many different people and have had the chance to work on various matters. This has really enhanced my understanding of the types of deals we do and the many elements which go into making complicated, multi-party projects happen.
Our office here is well established - it opened in 1975 - and is involved with some of the most interesting work in the region, especially in the oil and gas sector. Transactions are global and innovative and as a trainee out here you have the opportunity to get involved in some really complex deals. There is always someone around to ask for background details or explain a commercial point. Deals are by no means confined to the UAE and everything I have worked on so far has been multi-jurisdictional. I have worked with several of our offices around the globe during my seat, as well as with overseas clients and local counsel.
Alongside my project finance work, I have helped out with M&A and finance - rumour has it some international arbitration may even be heading my way. I enjoy the variety and getting to know more about other departments – it definitely helps with future seat choice dilemmas. The familiarity you gain by working with so many different documents makes for a rounded and edifying training experience. I have also done some marketing and business development research, a fantastic way to learn about the industries and jurisdictions in which we operate. This type of research is often purely commercial and it has been an interesting counterbalance to the legal research I have also been asked to do. Juggling different deals can be intense but luckily the atmosphere is laid-back and the people here generally trust you to set your own pace.
Trainee tasks are varied. As well as the usual responsibilities of managing originals and checking documents, I often find myself being asked to draft documents, interpret agreements and produce detailed analyses of documentation or how a transaction will progress. So far I have been to meetings in Dubai and accompanied partners to client meetings, at which I have been encouraged to join in with discussions. Days are rarely repetitive and there is often no telling what will come up next.
The office out here is integrated and non-hierarchical. I don’t think even a week has gone by without the office gathering for a social event, be it drinks, visiting a water park or even a famous Abu Dhabi brunch… it’s a vibrant place to be. There is a sizeable trainee network, which seems even bigger when you factor in that Dubai and the trainees there are only about an hour up the road. Trainees tend to meet up most evenings at various restaurants, bars and sports centres as the city is so easy to get around. You also find yourself networking with other professionals all the time. To top it all off, you can hit the beach at the weekend, or take advantage of Abu Dhabi being a great base from which to travel for long weekends, whether it’s to the rest of the Middle East, Africa, India, Sri Lanka…
It can be a challenge to move abroad for six months but, once you get here, you start worrying that won’t be long enough! I would say it is invaluable when you work for an international firm to get to know another office. The work is challenging and diverse and you are fully encouraged to get to know the broader commercial picture. Abu Dhabi has much to offer a trainee and, especially with daily sunshine practically guaranteed, it is an opportunity that comes highly recommended.