Web Week

This week’s Web Week is dedicated to the first of TheLawyer.com’s spanking new ‘Postcard from…’ series profiling the law’s more exotic outposts. This week’s blogger is Gerard Aston, an English legal assistant at the Almaty, Kazakhstan, office of Grata Law.

Steppe learning curve

Like most aspiring lawyers I have attended numerous interviews, and when asked about my strengths would ­typically reply, “I like to face new challenges.”

Yet last January, when I found myself on a flight bound for Almaty to work as a legal assistant for Grata Law, there was a small part of me that wished I had answered, “I’m good with numbers.”

I was lucky enough to work in Kazakhstan at a hugely important point in the country’s development. As the economic boom at the beginning of the millennium begins to be checked by the harsh reality of the credit crisis, its long-term future rests on the policies introduced and the direction taken by the government over the next few years.

Further moves towards nationalisation and tax increases for foreign ­companies threaten the relatively good relations that Kazakhstan has developed with most of the West since becoming independent in 1992.

Outside the office, Almaty is a delight for any twentysomething lawyer looking for good times and whose expectations are not unduly high after spending his ­formative years in the North West of England!

Manchester is famous for its 24-hour party people and Almaty can claim to have the best nightlife in the steppe, ranging from old-fashioned expat-friendly pubs to venues where the Kazakh glitterati strut their stuff.

One thing is for sure, you will never forget your first, and quite possibly your last, glass of Kumis (fermented horse milk).

Similarly, if you join any Kazakh birthday ­parties, it’s generally best not to make any plans for the following morning.