Ify Okpalugo - resourcing consultant at Clyde & Co’s Dubai office – on working in the Middle East, the region’s challenges and what opportunities exist for lawyers thinking of relocating.
I first visited Dubai 10 years ago with a group of friends and knew very little about the Middle East other than what I had seen on the news. I imagined an Arabic-style Vegas skyline in the middle of the endless desert.
The reality is that Dubai is a growing metropolis, now boasting one of the busiest airports in the world. It is a vibrant hub; the epitome of a city where you can work really hard, earn a tax free income and play hard. Abu Dhabi and Dubai are the safest cities I have ever visited. I often leave my bag on the beach and it will still be there with everything intact when I return. There have also been a number of times when I have left my mobile phone in a taxi and it has always been delivered back to my doorstep.
Whether I decide to drive or take the ultra-modern metro to work, transport is affordable and easy. At work I have the pleasure of working with a multitude of different nationalities, each with their own background and story to tell. After work, depending on my mood, I can opt to take advantage of the various happy hours on offer within walking distance of work, or I can head home for a swim and soak in the outdoor hot-tub, a common norm for Dubai apartment living!
Living in the Dubai Marina area, I have a short five minute walk to the beach, numerous restaurants and world famous beach clubs to choose from. At the weekend, because the sun is always shining, I can choose whether to spend my time sunbathing, snorkelling, socialising at lively outdoor brunches, playing beach volleyball or going on impromptu boat trips - all activities that were quite impossible for me to do in Manchester. My friends with children are spoilt for choice between waterparks, barbeques, kids fun zones, water sports and sports leagues. Dubai really is a city that caters for all lifestyles.
As most major corporations now operate out of Dubai as their gateway between east and west, including the majority of top international law firms, banks and FMCG multinationals, you are constantly aware of the calibre of market leading professionals and the opportunities the city has to offer. Working at a dynamic and growing international law firm like Clyde & Co, my role as an internal recruiter across the region is exciting and challenging and always keeps me on my toes. The growth areas in the region include: Defence & Security; Iran; Healthcare; and Infrastructure & Hospitality (with the upcoming Expo 2020 in Dubai).
The region is successful at attracting top international talent, however due to the transient nature of expat living, retaining talent after a 2-5 year mark was often an issue. People often leave to go back to their home countries to raise families or be closer to extended family. The UAE governments addressed this by building world-renowned healthcare and educational facilities including Healthcare City, top international schools like Paris–Sorbonne University and dedicating a large part of the country's budget to developing modern recreational and leisure areas such as The Beach, Box Park and City Walk. Nowadays most expats stay in the region for 5-10 years and are raising families and establishing roots.
In April, Clyde & Co announced a record number of partner promotions across its international network, with 50% of the new promotions being women. Clyde & Co has been in the Middle East for almost 27 years and is one of the longest standing & largest international law firms in the region. With five regional offices (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Riyadh, Tripoli) we have 41 partners based full-time in the Middle East.
Clyde & Co differentiates itself in the MENA region because of its full-service offering and its sector specialisms. There are lots of opportunities for legal professionals to get involved in interesting and complex transactions, in particular, within the healthcare, education, infrastructure and hospitality sectors.
We are always interested in fee earners with specialist experience within these sectors, across our different practice areas such as corporate and construction, dispute resolution and aviation finance.
For our MENA offices, we have hired paralegals, solicitors, senior associates and partners from all over the UK, Ireland and Scotland as well as Australia and New Zealand.