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“An unforgettable learning experience”

April 2024: Australia graduates Annie Tran and Alice Noonan have just returned from their six-month overseas rotation. We asked them to tell us about the highlights of their experience, what they learned from their time overseas and how it will help them in their future careers.

Why did you choose Singapore (Annie) and Abu Dhabi (Alice) for your overseas rotation?

Annie Tran: Other graduates told me that the opportunity to work in a region that is spearheading global development is incredibly rewarding both professionally and personally. Going there was also a chance to start building my network and learn from people and practice groups that I would work with in the future. Finally, it seemed like a great opportunity for travel around Asia-Pacific and to experience all the incredible food Asia-Pacific has to offer!

Alice Noonan: Abu Dhabi was quite unfamiliar to me (I'd never even been to the Middle East!), but I knew that a lot of our market-leading projects work and clients are based in the Middle East. I had completed my first seat in Project Delivery in Australia and really enjoyed it, so the Project Delivery and Finance team in the Abu Dhabi office seemed like the right place to keep learning and gain some new perspective.
What was the same, and what was different about working overseas compared to home?

AN: The caliber of work was pretty similar, but the Abu Dhabi office is much smaller in size, which meant I had the opportunity to take ownership over work and gain client exposure from very early on.  The type of matters we worked on were also different—in Australia, I had mainly acted sponsor-side on renewables and infrastructure projects in Asia-Pacific, whereas in Abu Dhabi, I was working procurer-side on a broad range of energy projects across the Middle East. Most people in the office also moved to Abu Dhabi at some point, so everyone is very understanding of the adjustment you go through when you first arrive.

AT: Just as in Melbourne, the team was collegiate and committed to helping us graduates grow. The main difference would be working out how to navigate differing time zones and working styles across borders. We worked with teams and clients based in cities from Hong Kong to Denmark, so I learned to adapt to different preferences and expectations. A nice surprise was that my team in Singapore was made up of mostly Australians who had previously rotated through Singapore or transferred from an Australian office. This was especially the case given the Singapore Project Delivery and Finance team often worked closely with the Australian office on deals.

Tell us about the professional highlight of your seat?
AT: That would be the first closing I was asked to run when I arrived in Singapore. Getting the opportunity to take ownership over the matter, attend meetings with clients and work closely on drafts of documents for a major offshore windfarm was quite rewarding and an unforgettable learning experience.

AN: I got a last-minute call-up to travel to client meetings in Saudi Arabia—I had been working on the matter for months by that point, so getting to meet the clients in person and be part of the negotiations made the work I had been doing feel very real. Being from Australia, it also felt very cool to be able to hop on a plane for an hour and be in a different country for the day!

How has your overseas rotation changed your professional ambitions?

AN: I am still really interested in working in the projects space, and the rotation confirmed that. However, my experience in Abu Dhabi helped me realize that I have a strong interest in seeking out work based in emerging markets or with cross-border elements. Overall, it really cemented how global White & Case is. I've realized how much people in the Firm leverage our global network as part of their work.

AT: Before going to Singapore, I was still torn as to whether I wanted to be a back-end or front-end lawyer. However, after six months of getting to work in the hub of Asia-Pacific and seeing first-hand how Project Development and Finance was being led, I decided to come back and try my hand at another another Project Finance seat for my third rotation.

Outside of work, how did you enjoy living in a new city?

AN: Weekends were mainly spent socializing or exploring—we would meet up with trainees from other law firms to go to the beach, brunches (which are huge in Abu Dhabi) or tourist attractions. Though work-related, a personal highlight was definitely attending a client event at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix! Abu Dhabi is a major travel hub and I traveled to Oman, Greece, Tanzania, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Georgia.

AT: Along with other trainees and graduates, I would often travel on the weekends to different countries around South-East Asia. This included trips to Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan and Vietnam. The highlight was definitely the trainee group trip to Lombok for Christmas.
What's your biggest takeaway from the overseas experience?

AT: As someone who came from a completely different seat (Land, Environment & Planning), I was able to build up my experience in front-end work. This included developing my skills in matter management, client advisory, drafting and business development—all skills that I'm excited to apply back in Melbourne.

AN: Beyond developing my technical, legal and interpersonal skills, I was exposed to a huge number of lawyers with different backgrounds and working styles while overseas, which allowed me to think a lot about the traits that make a good lawyer and how I can emulate these in my own career going forward.