Where focused
minds meet

Middle East

Alhassane Barry

Counsel, Banking & Finance, Dubai

"What first struck me about the people I met at Clifford Chance was their intelligence, commercial attitude and the commitment to top quality client services."

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I joined Clifford Chance in 2006 and am currently Counsel in the Worldwide Projects Group, based in Dubai.

I advise sponsors, investors, project companies and financiers on the development and financing of projects around the world in power, oil and gas, mining and metals, infrastructure and telecoms sectors.

The projects I work on are different, and we always work hard to bring tailor-made solutions to our clients. I also like the sector and regional diversifications of my job. For instance, over the past couple of years, I have had the opportunity to advise public authorities on airports privatisation in the Middle East, the financiers on financing of satellites in the Caucasus region, a consortium of international oil companies on the development of a cross-borders pipeline project in East Africa, a developer on power projects in Pakistan, the lenders on the financing of multiple award-winning independent power projects in West Africa and the sponsors on the development of an integrated bauxite mine and alumina refinery in West Africa.

It is a wonderful experience to be involved in such a wide range of sectors, and it is very enriching to do business in diverse countries and learn about them and their people.

I am a member of the Clifford Chance core Africa group, where I support the Africa Executive Leadership Group to shape our Africa practice, and also a member of the 'core relationship team' for three major global clients, where I work closely with the relationship partners to develop our relationships with these clients. I am also actively involved in several sector groups.

During my career at Clifford Chance, I have worked in three different offices located in three different continents: Paris, Washington D.C. and Dubai. I graduated from the Wharton School of Business (USA), the University of Pennsylvania Law School (USA) and Université Paris 2 Panthéon Assas (France), and am a member of both the New York and Paris bars. I am fluent in five languages – French, English, Sussu, Fulani and Mandingo.

Clifford Chance has a proven track record of being visionary on many aspects, and one example that comes to mind is the strategic growth of the Africa practice. Starting as a junior associate, I've been heavily involved in assisting the Africa Executive Leadership Group with reshaping and reorganising our Africa practice to better position the firm to take advantage of the rapidly growing business environment in Africa.

What continues to attract me to the firm

What keeps me at the firm goes beyond the reputation of being a leading 'global elite firm' – it is three things: the people, the culture and the vision. What first struck me about the people I met at Clifford Chance was their intelligence, commercial attitude and the commitment to top quality client services. In every office I have worked in, I have enjoyed excellent relationships with quality people at all levels of seniority, who have been very supportive in helping me to progress my career. The amount of time and effort that I have invested in the firm and its people has been equally rewarded by investment of the firm and its people in me.

 

Furthermore, to smoothly manage a firm with such a large footprint requires a strong firm culture. Based on my experience of working for Clifford Chance in three different continents, I would acknowledge that it is the strength of the firm's culture that has made each of my moves very smooth and helped me feel quickly at home in each office. Finally, the firm's clear vision to be the global law firm of choice for the world’s leading businesses of today and tomorrow is something I fully embrace.  

The most rewarding experience I've had so far

Recently, I was the leading associate on a new US$500 million industrial projects financing in Africa where we were advising a pool of financiers. After about a year of intense and difficult negotiations, we finally reached financial close. Our own clients were very pleased, admitting that the deal would have closed far beyond the expected timeframe (or would not have closed at all) without our drive. A couple of months later we were contacted, this time, by one of the sponsors on the transaction to be their international legal counsel on a US$1 billion plus power project in Asia – a truly rewarding testimony to the great service that the team delivered to our clients and to the project.

 

As part of our Africa strategy, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with many colleagues from African law firms during the course of transactions and through the Clifford Chance Africa Academy platform. Our approach to working with African law firms is truly inclusive, contributing to the professional development of these colleagues, and improves our Africa-specific knowledge.

My experience working from home

At first I was a bit anxious about working from home for an extended period of time. Initially it was a bit of a challenge, juggling my heavy workload (without my beloved hard copy transaction bibles) with home-schooling duties for my two young boys. I've come to realise that I wouldn't make the best teacher so, for now at least, there is no plan to change careers! Thankfully, things have quickly fallen into place. I try to replicate my previous routine to the greatest extent possible, for example, by waking up and starting work at the same time as before. This said, although I am occasionally tempted to put on a suit and a tie, I must admit I haven't yet succumbed to this temptation. What I have found to be very important is ensuring a clear divide between time spent in my home office and time spent with my family.

In the Middle East (and I'm sure this is also the case across our offices), our leadership and HR and IT teams have done an outstanding job in ensuring that we have all of the tools needed to deliver the same outstanding quality of work from home. I was also particularly impressed by how smooth the transition from the office to home was, given that this transition happened for many offices in a short space of time. To stay connected with colleagues, we also have various virtual social gatherings. This includes everything from baking contests to quizzes to Iftars in this holy month of Ramadan. It's a real reflection of our team mantra that we're all in this together and will emerge from it together as one team.

 

 

What keeps my days varied and interesting is working on a number of transactions with colleagues around the network, as well as initiating and being involved in BD and client initiatives. This has continued almost as if I was physically in the office. Irrespective of whether I'm working with colleagues or clients and irrespective where we are geographically, we're all in this together and it's important to stay positive. Staying connected plays a big role in staying positive, and I apply the "2x2 Rule" which means that every two days, I'll call two colleagues (in the Middle East and outside of the region) and two clients to check on how they're doing on a personal level.

I joined Clifford Chance as trainee many moons ago and in that time I've worked in four offices (Washington DC, Paris, Abu Dhabi and Dubai) across three continents. What has kept me at the firm - and this is a theme across each office I've worked in - is the people, the culture and our shared vision. Though these are testing times, the people I work with every day, and the culture of collaboration, support and generosity in the firm hasn't wavered, which is a real testament to how deeply we hold these values.