Name: Ruchdi Maalouf.
Degree and university: Law in France for a law degree at Universit Paris 1, Panthon Sorbonne, and in London for an LLM at SOAS, University of London.
Work title: Tokyo Projects Team, Herbert Smith
Why did you decide on a career in law? For a long time, I hesitated between a career in journalism and a career in law. What decided it for me is the work experience I gained in a law firm in Paris. I was trying to save some money to travel to China and found a job in a law firm as a paralegal. I enjoyed the work very much, and realised that a legal career could be exciting and intellectually rewarding.
What did the application process involve? For me, the application process was a bit more lengthy than usual. I decided to embrace a legal career several years after graduating and began as a paralegal. After several years of legal work, I applied for training contracts and was very pleased to find one at Herbert Smith.
After that, I completed a law conversion course (because I had a French law degree and not a UK one). I completed it over two years through distance learning while working full-time. Following that, I enrolled in the Legal Practice Course full-time in London.
What type of work are you currently doing? My current seat is in the Tokyo Projects team. Projects involves work relating to the oil and gas, electricity and infrastructure sectors. We represent Japanese and other clients in their international transactions outside Japan (the UK, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Australia, to name a few). The type of transactions varies a lot. Some consist of the purchase of an interest in a petroleum field, others in the review of the projects documents relating to the development of an electricity plant (including contracts to build railways and contracts to supply the electricity to the grid for example).
What do you most enjoy about what you do and are there any downsides? What I love about my job is the international opportunities it has offered me. My dream was always to work overseas, and to learn more about other cultures and continents. Japan is a fantastic place to live in. Its culture and the quality of life here exceeded my expectations. As there was an opportunity to stay in the Projects team after qualification, I applied, and now look forward to beginning my career as an associate in Japan.
There are downsides to every job. A job that comes with increasing responsibilities and a good salary is bound to be demanding, and there are occasions when we have to work long hours.
What skills do you think you need to succeed as a solicitor? In order to be a successful commercial lawyer, you need to work hard to achieve two things: technical excellence, and commercial excellence. You need to know the law relating to your area of practice inside out. You also need to understand in-depth what your clients are doing: this is necessary to communicate effectively with them, understand their needs, and provide them with practical legal advice they can use.
What advice would you give graduates who wish to enter the law sector? There is no secret recipe. The most important thing a graduate needs to know before setting out on the professional path is that the key to success is perseverance above everything else. The other important thing from a graduate’s perspective is to make the right career choice. Few have the adequate information to choose what suits them and family, social, and academic environments often get in the way of one’s aspirations. In that respect, I would advise a graduate to forget everything he/she believes to know about each type of job that hasn’t been learnt from direct observation, and to open his/her eyes and take the necessary time to choose what career is the most appealing.