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Life as a Projects and Finance Lawyer in Singapore

I am currently a projects and finance lawyer in Singapore. In fact, I just qualified and was newly called to the Singapore bar just two months ago! I graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2016 and went on to pursue my Masters in corporate and commercial law at the London School of Economics in 2017. My academic and career interests were always in the realm of transactional work, and my desire to work in an international corporate setting was discovered after internships at international law firms in Hong Kong and Taiwan. I had an offer to work in Hong Kong after graduation but I chose to qualify in Singapore instead so that I can be at home (especially having not been around for the past few years!)

Having been in the UK for a number of years I was very familiar with the Pinsent Masons brand – especially given its strong presence at the UK national level. The Firm was also one of the few international law firms that offer training contracts in Singapore, and so it was only natural that I immediately seized the opportunity when I learned there was a project finance opening at the Firm.

The recruitment process was seamless and enjoyable right from the start, not least because the HR team in Singapore was friendly and responsive (I believe I may have asked a question too many!). I went through two rounds of video interviews with the Singapore recruitment partners at the London office, in addition to another interview with the HR team. I thoroughly enjoyed the interviews, which felt more like a conversation than a formal interview. My tip for future applicants, and which you may have heard a million times before, is to make sure that you build on your commercial awareness. It sounds cliché and abstract but it is really no more than an appreciation of worldly affairs, be it political, business or economic affairs, and understanding how such affairs will affect the business of the Firm, in particular, your practice area. Commercial awareness is all the more important given the international nature of the Firm, and so before your interview, I would recommend you brush up on knowledge of current affairs and be prepared to have a conversation on such affairs.

My training at the Firm was challenging, not least because I was the only trainee in my team, but the people at the Firm were really friendly and approachable and I never felt that I was completely lost. The most challenging yet exciting matter that I had worked on during my training, was advising on the finance documents for a coal-fired power plant in Pakistan, which was financed by Chinese banks under the belt and road initiative, and I even had the invaluable opportunity to fly to Chengdu and witnessed the vigorous negotiations between the project sponsors and the banks. It was challenging especially because this was my first project finance deal so there was a steep learning curve but was an extremely fulfilling experience.

Working in Singapore is definitely great (except the weather) especially given that we just moved into new swanky premises that boast unrivaled views over the touristy Chinatown district! The Firm also has many training initiatives and seminars of various sorts that are great for self-development. Cross-border collaboration is always prevalent given the nature of our work and the Firm, and such international nature also extends to the profile of our clients. We mostly work with companies that can range from Japanese contractors to English banks, major oil companies to Governments, and also in various jurisdictions. At least for projects, we are particularly interested (and do work) in jurisdictions such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, China and the Middle East. I am for example currently assisting a Chinese contractor in the construction of a power plant in Indonesia and the team is also currently advising a Chinese state-owned company on an exciting acquisition deal in Russia.

My final tip to students considering an internship or training contract is to ‘be a sponge’ (as a colleague of mine told me when I was a trainee). Get involved in as many things as you can and absorb as many lessons as you can, and I believe that pro-activeness in seeking work would be very much appreciated. And as much as we juniors are tasked with doing seemingly mundane or administrative tasks, always remember to ask yourself the question ‘Why’ and the purpose of what you are doing so that you will always understand and appreciate the big picture.