Advice

‘Is a training contract at a global law firm’s Middle East office a viable route to the London construction bar’

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A wannabe barrister requires readers’ help

Dubai

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, a wannabe construction barrister wants to know if her roundabout route to the London bar is really a “viable” option.

“I want to be a construction barrister who specialises in Middle East disputes. However, I am well aware of the difficulties of getting into the bar, particularly areas which have commercial practices. I have been considering doing a Middle East training contract with a view of later transferring to the bar after a few years of experience. Would my plan be a viable route?”

If you have a career conundrum, email us at team@legalcheek.com.

38 Comments

NQ (With Construction Middle East seat)

No it is not.

(37)(2)

Anon

why?

(0)(2)

NQ (with Construction Middle East seat)

It is a lucrative area for law firms, no doubt about that and they really encourage people to go there by huge salaries and nice relocation packs.

However, there is still a perception that Middle East positions are for the people who did not find a place in London. This is often wrong, I had a brilliant team there, but I hear this again and again and again – from lawyers, bankers etc. This perception could be crucial for applicant to bar as the barristers like to see themselves as super smart (which they sometimes are) and elite.

It is also not easy to move from Middle East back to London. I just did a seat there, but have friends who tried to relocate after staying on the Middle Eastern market for some time. It is not straightforward, even for a solicitor with a strong experience in a top firm. Should be even harder to move to the bar.

(27)(1)

A builder

Why specifically Middle East construction?

(7)(1)

Anonymous

Maybe he/she has an interest in vanity projects built in the desert.

(15)(2)

Anonymous

Or no other options.

(2)(0)

.

Interesting approach but I’m not sure it would work. Have you considered City firms with their own in-house advocacy team, such as HSF?

(2)(2)

Clueless LLB Student

What exactly do you mean by in-house advocacy team?

(2)(9)

Anonymous

Wig jockeys employed by the firm, to save spaffing potential profits up the wall on self employed counsel.

Problem is, with the possible exception of arbitration specialists, few of the decent bazzas fancy it.

(8)(1)

Joe

As people begin to realise the reality of the Bar in the present day (that everyone except the very top end and commercial types actually have a less than optimal work/life/money balance compared to solicitors and other city roles) this sort of shop will become more common. The criminal Bar in particular will cease in its current form during my professional life, without a doubt.

(0)(0)

No.

No.

(1)(0)

Yes.

Yes.

(0)(0)

——

I have a friend who worked in a UK law firm based out of Switzerland, and somehow she used that experience towards a training contract. It’s possible. I wouldn’t ask other lawyers. I would ask the SRA about this.

(1)(26)

Anon

“Based out of”. Yuck. I bet you also say “gotten” as well, don’t you?

(19)(3)

Anonnon

You could be fluent in Arabic with several Masters degrees and a few years spent living in Abu Dhabi, and they will still prefer the English debating champion from a public school with an Oxbridge First in Classics.

Terribly small-minded of course, but then life might be a lot more fun working away from the construction bar?

(63)(10)

Patrick Bateman, Vice President at Pearce & Pearce

Lol not the best plan.

Btw, do you like Hewie Lewis and the news?

(9)(0)

Pat Bateman

Tsk tsk, it’s “Huey Lewis and the News”.

Did you know I’m utterly insane?

(13)(0)

Anon

Mate you know it’s spelled Peirce in the film

(1)(0)

Pat Bateman

It’s Pierce & Pierce, actually.

In the morning, if my face is a little puffy, I’ll put on an ice pack while doing my stomach crunches. I can do a thousand now.

(8)(1)

Anonnnn

You could be fluent in Arabic with several Masters degrees and a few years spent living in Abu Dhabi, and they will still prefer the English debating champion from a public school with an Oxbridge First in Classics.

Terribly small-minded of course, but then life might be a lot more fun working away from the construction bar?

(2)(9)

Anonymous

So good he said it twice

(34)(0)

Anonnnn

You could be fluent in Arabic with several Masters degrees and a few years spent living in Abu Dhabi, and they will still prefer the English debating champion from a public school with an Oxbridge First in Classics.

Terribly small-minded of course, but then life might be a lot more fun working away from the construction bar?

(1)(0)

ABC

Huey

(2)(1)

anonymouse

If you want to practice in an area of the Bar, what you really have to do is look at the chambers that do that work, and read the CV’s (usually publicly available on chambers website) of the pupils.

I have a very high 2.1 from ‘top’ non-Oxbridge uni, but there are some commercial sets that I know would only bother interviewing me for interviewing’s sake.

Time better spent looking somewhere where people actually want to work with you. It’s nothing personal.

(2)(1)

Clobber

A 2:1 is a 2:1. Nobody gives a frock whether you got 68 or 63. Go stroke a toad you muffin.

(26)(3)

Anon

Most lawyers tend to look down on those working in overseas offices like the Middle East as second rate. However, I wouldn’t say your idea is a hopeless one but keep in mind it won’t be enough on its own. If you were just a normal associate you probably won’t make the cut. However, if you played in a pivotal role in particularly tricky cases or consistently exceeded expectations and outperformed your colleagues, then whatever chambers you’re applying for is more likely to be interested. And of course, the struggles of having to learn a new language and adjust to a new culture always looks good on a CV.

Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel that you would have better chances working for a City firm and then make the switch. If you do well as a solicitor in London, you should have a reasonable chance of making the cut. Keep in mind that when I say do well, I most certainly do not mean average. You’ll have to outperform those around you if you want to go into the Construction bar. Also note, that if you can become a solicitor-advocate and go to court a few times, you’re chances will definitely improve provided you do well.

Finally, whether you choose to accept a training contract in London or the Middle East, make connections that will help you. If a particular chambers wants to do more work with your firm, then they will have an interest in taking you since your connections with that firm can be leveraged to get that firm to go to that chambers more. Make friends with the barristers so they can provide tips and a little help to improve your chances and maybe look at your CV in a favourable light when you try to make the transition. Note that opportunities to do this are vastly superior in the city- another reason a London based training contract is probably a better idea.

Best of luck.

(5)(0)

Legal reportage

Gillard employment case about her leaking stuff to Legal Cheek:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5daeeb3840f0b609bbcd30ab/Miss_K_Gillard_vs_Goldsmith_Chambers__Services__Ltd_-_Res_Judgment.pdf

169. … She knew full well that it was she who had spoken to this publication, described by counsel for the respondent as the “legal gutter press” and accepted by the claimant as being “bad, but not that bad”.

170. We find that the claimant lied about the matter and was deceptive.

(7)(0)

Anon

Goldsmiths Chambers come across as awful in that judgement

(3)(1)

Comm Junior Jnr

1. Make it as senior associate in an international firm’s construction / energy / infrastructure department, preferably based in London.

2. Focus on contentious work: adjudications and arbitration. (Socialise with counsel you instruct on said matters.)

3. Do a masters part-time in something construction or ADR-based.

4. Contribute to a book on construction contracts (don’t make some trainee do the work).

If you manage any 3 out of the 4, you will get a reduced pupillage somewhere in London.

(11)(2)

LC

That is excellent advice. To the point and realistic.

(1)(0)

Tenant @ a top 5 chambers

A better way of getting into the construction bar would be, to get a first class law degree from Oxford University as well as a masters and PHD, come from a middle class white background and have a double barrelled surname (like Pemberton-Smith), it will also help if you speak with a posh accent and enjoy skiing, opera and polo (it means you’ll be able to socialise more easily with other tenants such as Rupert Bond QC).

(14)(2)

Anonymous

Then you need to spend all day on Twitter typing lots buzzwords like ‘wonderful diversity’, ‘orange-faced loser’, ‘Gammon’ and ‘Awful Brexiteers’, whilst sitting in a chambers that has many more BAME cleaning staff than practising barristers

(12)(1)

Anon

So? I want my fellow tenants to be the best, not a box ticking exercise.

(3)(2)

Anonymous

There are plenty of BAME people with Oxbridge 2.1s, and lots of White barristers with Oxbridge 2.1s too

Plenty of White barristers and QCs who haven’t been to Oxbridge either.

Tell me again how BAME people aren’t ‘the best’?

(1)(2)

Anon

Who said they weren’t, strawman? You lose credibility by trying to skew arguments in the manner of a second tier Tory cabinet member.

Anonymous

Yawn, 2.02 is so dull and witless.

Anonymous

“Snowball in hell” springs to mind.

(4)(0)

Benny Goodman

The scientific way to answer such questions is to look at the CVs of tenants at the sets you’re interested in and draw inferences. Post TC a few years such experience would probably looked on favourably in terms of the paper sift, but would be nowhere near decisive i.e. you would still need to have all other criteria to get an interview and then pupillage. Ask yourself if you would enjoy it and go from there perhaps. Not sure the deprecation of working in law firms’ overseas offices translates across to pupillage applications.

(1)(0)

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