As part of the UK Graduate Programme, Rebecca Walker and Lewis Elliott spent six months on secondment in the Dubai office. Beckie sat with the IPT team and Lewis in the Litigation, Arbitration and Investigations team.
I had never been to the UAE before arriving in Dubai, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect. However, I was very pleasantly surprised by the city and the infectious buzz about the place. Dubai is incredibly culturally diverse and it was fascinating and truly rewarding to live and work alongside so many different people from across the globe.
The office in Dubai is much smaller than the Leeds office, with around 60 fee earners and 40 support staff. As a central hub to the Middle East region, working in the Dubai office provided opportunities to work on matters spanning across the GCC and the wider surrounding area. During my secondment I was able to get involved in a number of different matters spanning all aspects of the IPT practice. This gave me real exposure to market-leading projects for a number of diverse clients.
A personal professional highlight of my secondment was attending the Middle East Tech Summit that the IPT team hosted in early November. The Summit provided a platform for industry-based discussions surrounding key issues, challenges and opportunities facing industry participants in the near future. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about digital transformation and how innovative technology and digitalisation will impact our clients.
I have been travelling to the Middle East for a number of years but never in a serious working capacity, and leaving a fiancée and a puppy at home was quite a big decision. Saying that, since joining the firm, Dubai was an obvious choice of secondment for me and I can honestly say I loved every minute of it. Dubai is a diverse, hard-working and transient part of the world, and being in the most westernised part of the GCC, makes you feel both at home and away at the same time. I'm sure being comfortable whilst being ill-at-ease is a feeling that lawyers tend to thrive on!
Working within the Litigation, Arbitration and Investigations group, I was a part of the largest team in a relatively small office, and I was able to get involved in a variety of matters very quickly across these three areas. The most significant matter that I was involved in early on in my secondment was a complex construction arbitration. The hearing started within two weeks of my arrival, and sat for two straight weeks subsequent to that. Preparation for and attendance at the hearing each day offered me great experience and exposure to the wider team and to clients. It obviously involved getting to grips with technical matters, and a huge number of documents, very quickly – out of the frying pan, and into the fire (quite literally with temperatures around 45 degrees in late August). My work on this matter allowed me to build up a great rapport with the partners and the wider team, and they trusted me to start managing my own case load and taking the lead on some more hands on work such as arbitration submissions and client management. This added responsibility really encouraged me to challenge myself and develop as a junior lawyer.
The beauty of the jurisdiction, and the practice area, is that it is often impossible to look too far ahead and plan how a matter is to progress or your immediate workload. Naturally, construction litigation is a natural fit in Dubai, but I also particularly enjoyed Investigations, which tests your skill of close analysis and often involves meaty allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption in this region. Working with other offices on Investigations, particularly Saudi Arabia, can also be very interesting. In my opinion, the opportunities to get cross-practice group and multi-jurisdictional experience in the Middle East are second to none, and I was able to form good relationships with colleagues across the office and region.
Outside of the office
When we were not in the office we used our free time to make the most of what Dubai has to offer. We spent most of our weekends in Dubai on the beach or at brunch, socialising with the cohort of trainees on secondment from other UK law firms. At any one time, there are over 50 trainees from a variety of law firms seconded to Dubai either to work in international offices or relationship firms so we were never short of friends to socialise with.
Particular social highlights from our secondment were the Dubai Rugby 7s weekend which took place in early December and a black tie function to celebrate Burns Night. We also managed to explore some of the surrounding area, with a trip to Musandam in Oman to watch the dolphins and weekends away in Abu Dhabi.
We would definitely recommend a secondment to anyone who wants to explore another part of the world and meet DLA Piper colleagues from around the globe. Everyone we met in Dubai was so welcoming and there were so many great opportunities to explore and broaden our internal (and external) networks.