We caught up with Rachel, a Watson Farley & Williams trainee, about her experience on an international secondment in Dubai.
Tell me a little bit about your journey to becoming a trainee at WFW.
I studied Law at Bristol with a year abroad in continental Europe, which I did in Lyon. Two weeks after finishing university, I took part in the Vacation Scheme with WFW and received the Training Contract offer to start two years later. I then did a year of travelling, enrolled on the LPC and started the Training Contract in 2019. For me, it was a smooth process from being a vac schemer to becoming a trainee, which I was really happy with.
I was a Bright Network member throughout university and attended a number of events. At the Future Lawyers event, I was able to speak to firms I hadn’t met at other law fairs which was very helpful. In the wider context, Bright Network was a useful resource in my early career journey with the opportunities and advice it provided.
What stood out to you about WFW when applying for opportunities in law?
The fact that WFW offered a six seat rotation stood out to me, as I wanted to try out more than just four seats to get as broad an experience as possible. The international opportunities were also very attractive as I really enjoy travelling and did a year abroad at university. As such, I knew I wanted to do part of my training abroad and I was only aware of a few firms guaranteeing an International secondment. Finally, the medium intake size suited me well. We have 18 trainees in our intake so, although you're not just one of a few, you also won't get lost amongst your cohort. Most importantly, on the Vacation Scheme I thought everyone was very friendly and welcoming and this was the main deciding factor to continue my journey with WFW.
What appealed to you about the opportunity to work abroad?
From my previous experience of living abroad, you learn so much from being in a different country. You get to see new things, experience new cultures and meet people from all over the world. It definitely helps with growth both professionally and personally whilst at the same time being a lot of fun!
Why did you choose Dubai?
Before this secondment I was seconded to the Singapore office virtually, owing to Covid restrictions, so I was very keen to get out to a country that had opened up. I’d never been to the Middle East before, so Dubai seemed a good place to start. I had also heard that it was an enjoyable place to live, and workwise I knew that it was a small team out there which provided a different experience to working in London.
What kind of work have you been exposed to on this secondment?
I’ve mainly been assisting the aviation and shipping finance teams, but have also done some work in dispute resolution and corporate. Due to the size of the office, the trainee is expected to help out everywhere they can, so it has been great to get involved in a wide range of matters.
What does a typical day look like for you as a trainee in Dubai?
The trainee flat is a ten-minute walk to the office which is nice and easy. When I arrive at my desk, I’ll check any emails that have come in overnight and then begin on my to-do list for the day. One of the aviation tasks I am doing at the moment is preparing the aircraft delivery documents. We have precedents from previous transactions for the same client, so I’ll prepare the documents and make any changes specific to this aircraft. We have team meetings every other week where the partners will give updates on their current workstreams and what they expect to come in. Some of the Associates will also talk about any cultural incentives we have going on. For every meeting, someone always brings in baked goods which is a nice touch.
I usually have lunch with a group of trainees from other firms, because we all work around the Dubai International Financial Centre. We are quite spoilt for choice in terms of where to go. Then in the afternoon, I'll often be jumping on calls where all parties can run through the CP checklist and relevant members of the team will give updates on the progress of the project or transaction. At the end of the day, I’ll review my to-do list and check in with the team to see if there’s anything else I can assist with before heading off. Sometimes we have socials after work too, for example yesterday we did a pub quiz which was really fun!
What skills have you gained from this secondment opportunity?
Working in a smaller team with only around 15 fee earners in the office and working across different departments has taught me to be more flexible. With this, I’ve taken on more responsibility when working on different deals. I've also learnt to adapt to living in a country with a completely different culture to the UK – it’s a blend of expats and local people living in one place which I've found to be quite unique.
What advice would you give to someone about to undertake an international secondment?
It’s a great experience and you really get a feel for how the firm connects together globally by working directly with people in a different office. It’s a fantastic opportunity to be able to meet trainees from different firms who work in the same industry as you. Living in another country itself is also an amazing experience which you personally learn so much from. If the opportunity presents Itself, I would definitely encourage anyone who is offered one to do it!
How would you describe the culture at WFW from your experience in both the London and Dubai office?
Across both offices the teams are very friendly – there are lots of social events to get involved with which really speaks to the culture of the firm. Having worked internationally, I can genuinely say that, as a trainee, everyone is there to help you learn and encourages you to ask questions. The size of the office also makes a big difference – it’s a lot smaller here than at many of the larger city firms, so you work on a broader range of matters than you might do elsewhere in London, without sacrificing the quality of work. The working culture in both offices is also so friendly and non-hierarchical, so we can joke around with Partners as well as with fellow trainees!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
Since WFW focusses on its key sectors, I’d definitely advise researching those before making your application. You should also ensure you're aware of the defining characteristics of the firm's training, including things like the intake size, international opportunities and seat choices, as these really distinguish us from other firms in the City. Everyone from my intake is very different and comes from a wide range of universities and backgrounds, so there’s no one type of person that they’re looking for. In short, my advice would be to research well, understand the sectors we operate in and be yourself.