I secured my Training Contract offer from Clifford Chance in my third year of university. I was studying law at Cambridge and, like most people, I had endured my share of rejections, so it was a relief to secure a job from my first choice firm. My primary concern prior to starting, was whether I would be able to handle the pressures and hours of working at an elite firm.
My fears proved to be unfounded. The job can certainly be demanding and stressful, especially in the first few years, but I have found the work to be incredibly fulfilling. There is a very supportive, collaborative atmosphere across all departments and you truly do get the opportunity to work on the most cutting-edge transactions in the market.
I sit in the debt capital markets team in London with a focus on sovereign debt, which covers a broad range of finance products involving sovereigns, state-owned enterprises and multilateral institutions (such as the IMF and the World Bank).
It can be tempting as a junior lawyer to try to specialise early, but the Firm has always encouraged us to be "T-shaped lawyers" so that we have the flexibility to move across different products. So although I sit in the capital markets team, I regularly get the opportunity to work across bonds, loans, structured products and derivatives.
As you become more senior, you realise how useful having broad product experience can be. It enables you to work on lots of different transactions but you also become equipped with the essential skills needed to tackle new challenges as they arise.
A major component of sovereign debt involves advising on sovereign debt restructurings, where a country in financial distress needs to restructure its financial obligations. These can be large, messy and time-pressured transactions, bringing together a country, advisors and a range of different creditors (whose interests are not necessarily aligned). Most recently, we advised the Argentina Creditor Committee as part of Argentina's successful 2020 debt restructuring. Covid-19 has also impacted the finances of lots of developing market countries, leading to increasing amounts of work in this area.
There is a particular focus on ESG in all sectors of the market and the two deals that I am most proud of working on have had a strong ESG focus. The first was a blue bond issuance by the Republic of Seychelles, guaranteed by the World Bank, where the proceeds were used by Seychelles for marine conservation purposes.
The second was a social bond issuance by the Republic of Ecuador, guaranteed by the Inter-American Development Bank, where the proceeds were used to generate access to affordable housing for more than 24,000 low-income families in Ecuador. These transactions were, respectively, the first-ever sovereign blue bond and the first-ever sovereign social bond.
Outside of fee-earning work, I try to take up pro bono and corporate responsibility work within the Firm (we have an incredible team dedicated to these areas, and the opportunities for associates to get involved are endless). My favourite piece of pro bono work involves sitting on the Clifford Chance London Foundation Management Group, which meets once a month to consider and award grants from Clifford Chance to charities around the world.