What’s it like to work internationally?

Ashurst lawyers of different levels of seniority share their experiences

At the recent Legal Cheek Live event at Ashurst, three of the firms’ lawyers talked about how they have worked internationally.

Elisha Rai, who is just back from doing the final seat of her training contract at the firm’s Dubai office, answered questions about what it’s like to do a six-month secondment. Banking senior associate Campbell Johnston talked about his new life in the UK, where he is based for two years as part of a transfer arrangement from Ashurst’s Melbourne office. And partner Nick Cheshire reflected on his life pulling the strings on deals from the firms’ London headquarters. Sixty students asked the questions.

Packed room at 'Life as a Global Business Lawyer' event #legalcheeklive @ashurst

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We’ve gathered together some of the speakers’ most interesting insights…

The secondment

ELISHA RAI, NEWLY QUALIFIED SOLICITOR

Doing an international secondment as a trainee is “probably the easiest time you are ever going to have living in another country — in the sense that everything is set up for you,” says Ashurst NQ Elisha Rai (centre in the video above), who has recently returned from a six-month secondment in the firm’s Dubai office that she completed while in the final seat of her training contract. Speaking at ‘Life as a global business lawyer’, she continued:

Accommodation is provided for you, all of your costs are covered including your plane ticket, and someone even comes to collect you at the airport. Literally there is nothing more that they could do.

This allowed Rai to focus on her work in the Dubai projects team, where she gained an invaluable insight into infrastructure deals — one of the potentially hot areas of the coming years amid US President-elect Trump-inspired talk of major government spending initiatives.

At the same time, she was able to build her network and get a wider sense of how the firm works. The Leeds University law and French graduate explained:

You get this whole new skill set: this flexibility of being able to take what you know in London but apply it to somewhere else. On top of that you also start to build a network, whereby you grow not just your internal network, which is who do I know at Ashurst, but also an external network.

Rai continued:

What happens at Ashurst is that in London we have a really good reputation, so we have clients coming and asking if they can work with us, which is great. But in other offices we have got to pitch for work, so you can get really involved in that side of things, where you start to learn as a trainee that a law firm is a business, and needs to make money, get new clients and keep those clients.

The two-year spell abroad

CAMPBELL JOHNSTON, SENIOR ASSOCIATE

Seven months ago Ashurst banking senior associate Campbell Johnston (left in the video above) arrived in London as part of a two-year long transfer arrangement from the firm’s Melbourne office.

He has been loving the experience of life in the UK capital, as by day he helps to drive leveraged finance deals alongside Ashurst’s highly-rated private equity team, and in his free time explores London. He told the audience:

This is one of the world’s financial centres, so as a banking & finance lawyer it’s a great experience for me to be able to work here. The standout element has been experiencing market trends and key themes before they ripple out abroad.

Johnston gave the example of advising direct lending funds as “a phenomena that is just starting to be seen on deals in Australia but has been very active here for the last five or six years”. He explained that “experiencing new things and new techniques, while testing my skills in a different jurisdiction, is helping me to develop further as a lawyer”.

The Melbourne University graduate, who previously has done several client secondments in Australia, added that he hopes that his time in London will “contribute towards the further integration of the firm” when he returns home in 2018.

The London-based global dealmaker

NICK CHESHIRE, PARTNER

Ashurst corporate partner Nick Cheshire (right in the video above) works internationally everyday from his office on London. “Technology has made the world smaller,” he told the students at the event, recalling starting his training contract in 1995 with just a phone on his desk. He remembered:

At around 4pm each day the letters I had been drafting were typed up by a secretary and sent to my supervisor to be marked up. Then there would be a big rush as the typing pool made all the changes before the final versions of the letters were sent off in the post at 5:30pm.

Now Cheshire is able to run deals from London via conference calls, Skype, cloud computing and other technologies that have made global deals far easier. Not that it’s an entirely different world. “While useful, IT skills are not a substitute for good judgement,” he says. “At the same time, stamina and resilience remain key attributes.”

Looking ahead, Cheshire forecasts that globalisation will continue to power ahead, fuelled partly by continuing technological developments, in spite of Brexit and some of the protectionist rhetoric of President-elect Trump’s election campaign. Cheshire told the students:

The multinationals we advise sell products in markets worldwide and will continue to seek to sell as many products to as many people as they can in order to generate maximum returns for their shareholders. If more tariffs are put in place — and it’s by no means certain that this will happen – then ultimately demand for people with a detailed knowledge of different legal regimes will rise. So it could be an opportunity for global law firms.

Further reading:

Why the show will go on for international corporate lawyers [Legal Cheek Careers]

About Legal Cheek Careers posts.