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Middle East

Alekhya Prakash

Senior Associate, Capital Markets, Dubai

"I think what sets Clifford Chance apart from other law firms is that the firm encourages employees to take ownership of their career from a very early stage."

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I joined Clifford Chance as a trainee in August 2009 after graduating from a law school in India.

As a trainee, I completed seats in the securitisation, corporate and litigation teams in the London office before coming to Dubai for my final seat in capital markets. At the end of my two-year training contract, I was offered a spot in the Capital Markets team in London with an immediate secondment to Dubai.

At the end of my Dubai secondment, I returned to London for around a year before making a permanent move back to Dubai in 2014. I am now a five-year qualified Capital Markets senior associate in Dubai.

I was attracted to Clifford Chance because of its international footprint coupled with its one firm approach – the advice and ethos across the network is incredibly joined up, and the opportunities this throws up (in terms of clients and transactions) are second to none. 

At the same time, it was very important for me to be a part of an inclusive organisation that encourages diversity of personnel and thought. Clifford Chance was committed to this even back in 2007 (when I applied for my training contract), as was amply evidenced by everyone I met as part of my recruitment process.

The people at Clifford Chance are very impressive and, quite often, leaders in their field. At the same time, they are very collegiate, friendly and approachable – I have quite often just walked into a colleague's office or emailed a colleague in another office in respect of transaction-related questions and, despite not being involved in that related transaction, they have always been very responsive, helpful and patient.

My most rewarding experience

I recently worked on a hybrid note issuance by a regional corporate. Hybrid issuances by corporates are relatively rare in the region (particularly, outside the context of the financial institution (Tier 1) and insurance sectors). The transaction needed to be executed fairly quickly and had an additional layer of review inasmuch as the structure had to be accepted as qualifying for equity credit by the rating agencies and the auditors. The transaction was also being executed when certain new marketing-related regulations were coming into force. This was a very exciting deal since we were often in uncharted territory. This also reinforced that we have a wonderful support structure in place (from partners to product specialists around the globe) – completing the transaction was a true team effort.

What keeps me attracted to the firm

It goes without saying that we are constantly working on innovative, cutting-edge deals for very high-profile clients across the GCC region and the world. This in itself is very stimulating – each day has its own challenge and there are no "plain vanilla" deals. However, I think what sets Clifford Chance apart from other law firms is that the firm encourages employees to take ownership of their career from a very early stage. Frankly, the first couple of years would have to be about "learning the craft" – but from them on, your career is what you make of it.

 

One part of this is encouraging associates to develop deep institutional relationships with clients, but the approach also transcends into the non-transactional aspects of running a law firm – there are numerous opportunities to contribute to knowledge building, continuous improvement pilots, matter profitability projects. In Dubai, I get to work with partners and business support teams who are always happy to talk through the business of running a law firm because they genuinely care about my career path, which makes for a great workplace environment and makes me feel more connected to the firm. 

What I like best about my job

Hands down, my colleagues – on a stressful day, there is always someone who pops around with an "emergency chocolate"! I also love the fact that, in essence, my job is a conflux of commercial advice and legal risk; we provide legal advice to achieve a particular commercial objective. This, of course, has associated challenges but also provides an understanding of what makes the relevant client "tick".

 

In addition, as a capital markets lawyer, I am frequently involved in drafting or reviewing disclosure for the client. All of this results in my being able to put my transactions in a real sense vis-à-vis their impact (including, in light of our sizeable client base, at a macro level, such as in terms of the relevant industry or economy).