I have training contract offers from magic circle firms in the Middle East and a US MoneyLaw outfit in London — which do I choose?

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I would appreciate readers’ advice

In the latest instalment of our Career Conundrums series, one soon-to-be trainee lawyer is torn between starting her career at magic circle law firm in the Middle East and a US outfit in London.

“Hello team! I have a career conundrum and was looking for some advice. I have two training contract offers for magic circle firms in the Middle East – but I also have an offer for a US firm for their London office. Genuinely interested in what people have experienced living and working for law firms in Dubai. Culture? Pay? Hours? And whether or not it is worth it to take the option to get some Middle East experience over a US firm early on in a career in law. I would appreciate some insight from readers!”

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US in London – offers much more possibilities and better variety of work. Also you can always move from London to Middle East. Much harder (though not impossible) to come from Middle East to London.



CC Dubai is smaller than in London and there is greater opportunity to work across the practice areas. Work is region-centric and there’s a drive to explore sub-Saharan Africa. Work-life balance in Dubai is better than in London and a closer culture in a smaller office. Plus the tax situation is good – walk away with £100k sterling tax-free, live in the sun and get a nice apartment!


Original post author

Did a foreign seat in Dubai and was offered a chance to stay there (with a Cravath level salary, so much more than what is offered by CC). Still preferred to come back to London. Work is much more diverse in London and is not 95% limited to construction disputes and finance and corporate aspects of the oil and infrastructure work. In London you do not need to “explore” work in sub-Saharan Africa – it is already here. Together with work from Latin America, Eastern Europe, Middle East and China.

And London is just a better place in general – better weather (yes, I love London weather, even though got a winter rotation in Dubai), has a much better cultural scene (I am impressed by what Dubai authorities are doing there, but it will take at least a hundred years to come close to London) and is just more open and nicer place to be in.



The issue I would have is a reputational one. At least in certain firms, the Middle East is known as a place where people (from qualifying trainees through to new partners) go when they didn’t quite cut it for London.



Absolutely. Dubai is for failures.



Utter bollox. Tell that to those making stacks of tax free dollah, speeding down the freeways in their convertibles and pumping it up at Barasti Beach every Friday and Saturday. Its the dream




Two sides of the same satanic coin.



Why don’t you go to a legal aid firm, like a real man


Legal aid lawyer

Oh no! I work at a legal aid firm, and although the work itself is immensely rewarding, you will practically be living on the national living wage! The pay is abysmal!



£12 a pint in Dubai – don’t bother



Thy lord has spoken.


Rio Carnival

Having done a two-week stint in a magic circle firm in the Middle East, I would say that the practice is restricted to construction/infrastructure projects and other matters (ie. financing and dispute resolution) which go along with that. If you’re looking for a well-rounded experience, taking the US offer would be better.



US shop in London all day long


Humblebrag detector

🚨 🚨 🚨



I did a 2 week vacation scheme at Allen & Overy in their Dubai last month. Most of the work is centred around project finance and real estate. The social life in Dubai is great, although, it’s very expensive as most people party in clubs that are located inside 5* hotels. You won’t find any cheap alcohol in Dubai. That being said, the salary is tax free in Dubai and no national insurance contributions or student finance loans to be paid. Compared to working in London, you’ll have to pay tax, NI and student loan payments.

The trainees at A&O Dubai do work long hours, maybe slightly less than London. My trainee buddy was in the office on average from 9am-9pm.

BUT – speaking with a lot of associates during my vacation scheme, most said it’s very difficult to transition back to London. If I was you, I would take the US firm TC, do a 6 month secondment in Dubai, HK or NY.



How late do you think A&O trainees in London work? Almost certain your avg. trainee doesn’t exceed 9-9



How do you cop a vac scheme in Dubai? Or are you from there originally?



Fake news.


Related question

Sorry to piggy back on this thread, I have a similar conundrum (what are the chances lol ?!)

I have a TC offers from a US firm in London and a top firm in Zimbabwe. I’m thinking work life balance is better in the latter, but am concerned by the volatility of the local currency. Pls help!



Zimbo all the way – they’ll pay you in farms.



Depends what US firm it is in London. If it’s Humperdink, Sussman, Goetz and Stein LLP then maybe take magic circle Dubai and move back.


Legal Recruiter, UAE

The only MC firms offering TCs in Dubai are CC and A&O. Both firms had an acceptance deadline of 3 July 2019.









There is no acceptance deadline!


Just Facts

Firms can’t make students accept an offer before their final year per SRA regulations (deadline is normally placed in mid September). So if this is a 2nd year then this is likely to be a real scenario. As per you as a legal recruiter, not knowing that is not a good look.



Actually, that SRA policy is not mandatory for firms to follow. It’s voluntary.

Also do law firms in Dubai follow the UK SRA?



A&O Dubai here – the above is bs. We are still interviewing for TCs and has only recently finished our vac scheme.



I lived in Dubai and Abu Dhabi a few years ago. I would avoid third third world country. They treat non-Arabs like crap. People are extremely rude and stuck up. No human rights or proper judiciary. Women have no rights at all and are perved on by Arab men constantly.



Clearly you have never lived in Dubai…


CC in the Sand Pit

Correct re MC TC offers in Dubai but point re July 3 cut off is wrong


Future US Firm Trainee

I have previously lived in Dubai. I would avoid third third world country. They treat non-Arabs like crap. People are extremely rude and stuck up. No human rights or proper judiciary system. Women have no rights – stick to London.



But what if this person is straight, as the majority of people are?



Most people don’t care about that lgbt crap, it’s just the mass media pushing it, don’t let that colour your view of Dubai


Kirkland NQ

Either could net you the bank for a Lambo so you’re golden buddy. I personally may have fitted in well in Dubai – the fast cars, open flaunting of wealth, encouragement of multiple spouses and culture of using low paid hired hands all matches my values but the ‘Land got in first and here we are.






You can live like a king in Dubai. You can have your own full time driver for £120 a month, live-in maid for £150 a month, and a chef for £200 a month. The rents are extremely high in Dubai but staff costs are low.



Dubai’s human rights record is atrocious. They are killing innocent Yemeni women and children. They execute gays. They treat women like garbage. Men are allowed to have 4 wives. Women can’t divorce men even if he has abused or cheated.


US Firm NQ

I have spent a foreign seat in Dubai and actually mostly liked the place, but always felt uneasy, even disgusted when I saw some local expats having home maids and home servants. This should not exist in 21 century.



Agreed. The servants are paid max $200 a month. That’s truly slavery.



Actually, the going rate is around DHS 2000-2500, so that’s closer to USD 500-600. When you consider that that is an average salary in the Phillipines and all accomodation and food is provided, it’s not really tantamount to slavery. There is a degree of first world condescension here. With the exception of genuine human trafficking, most people in Dubai are there because it represent a better deal for them (all things considered) than staying in their home country.



Says a subject of the royal family



Not yet, still couple of years away from becoming one (but hopefully soon enough)



Every month HMRC takes out the jumbo pack of Vaseline and goes to town… Royal weddings, palace renovations and security details don’t come cheap.



This isn’t something you should be proud of. Dubai is full of slavery and barbaric laws.


Magic Circle Firm NQ

I did a secondment in Dubai. I would not recommend training in Dubai if you are female. I was constantly harassed by Arab men. I reported a few incidents to the local police who did nothing. I talked to HR and they cut my six month secondment short, I could no longer live in Dubai.



Sounds like heaven.



What a bunch of bs. Associate at MC in Dubai here. And no, not a failure – Dubai is my third office at the firm. Also worked at a white shoe US firm for a couple of years.

Dubai is super safe and there is zero tolerance for harassment from Arab or other men. The law on harassment is very strict – no guy will ever make an insulting comment or try to touch you unless you clearly show you want it – unlike in London or other “civilized” cities. And no, expat women do not cover themselves – same dress code as everywhere else. Stop spreading this BS.

Re TC – I absolutely love Dubai: quality of life, work, better hours, much more money. People are much happier. Personally do not want to go back. BUT – I would still say do London and then move.


Magic Circle Firm NQ

Don’t Call me a liar you dick. It happened you weren’t there.



Staff and students at the University of Birmingham have warned that LGBT rights are not adequately protected at its new campus in Dubai where being gay or transgender risks imprisonment, flogging and execution.


El Diablo

Surely you know this before going out there…



That’s the whole point – avoid this barbaric country.



Was the UK “barbaric” half a century ago before homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967? It is absolutely right to pressure other countries to do it, but progress takes a lot of time.



Yes it was, homophobe. Comment reported.


The UK didn’t execute people for it.

I don’t understand why universities set up campuses (and therefore support the economies and reputations) in savage countries.


Hi Cecil:

True, but the UK practiced imprisonment and/or chemical castration instead. I would argue that is not much barbaric than execution, as a punishment for committing the horrible crime of having sex with someone of your gender.

Also, establishing campuses, besides bringing a lot of cash to the Universities (which is probably the main motive), also helps to educate locals precisely in a way that will help them to understand the Western values and concepts of human rights better.


I’m sorry that you hate gay people.


Just have some gay friends living in Dubai. It is not as gay friendly as Bahrain (where it is totally fine as far as the law is concerned), but people do live there without reprecussions (though there is constant slight chance of being caught, which is horrible). Hopefully Dubai follows Bahrain’s suit within next decade.


I don’t care about such stuff. I am a confirmed basic cis het fxxx boy.



Doesn’t help you.

Sex outside marriage is illegal there to.

You would be in jail with the rest of them.



Hogan Lovells



Is arguably the nicest shop going. Top tier office, £90k NQ salary + realistic 5-7k bonus, nice people, not great hours but better than MC, huge variety of work and seats… list goes on.
Yes – not as prestigious as a Linklaters, or as high paying as a Kirkland, but in no way can you use it as a sarcastic example for any sort of joke.



lol – “in no way can you use it as a sarcastic example for any sort of joke.” ok, sir. I was reminding LC to do an article on their pay rise.



Tom is waiting for RoF to publish it first



Their corporate team is shit. The way they get their name on deals when advising on a piddly irrelevant part of a transaction is ridiculous


Avoid Dubai

I worked in Dubai for 10 months. I would never go back. A country that has no respect towards human rights and treats non-Arabs as second class citizens.


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