Posted in Interviews on 15 Jun 2016
Shanti Shah is a Senior Associate at Trowers and Hamlins Bahrain office. Shanti joined Trowers this year as a result of a Douglas Scott introduction; having previously worked in the UK at Shakespeare Martineau, Corbett and Co, Pinsent Masons and Bond Pearce.
Shanti kindly found the time to share some insight into life in the Middle East and his personal and professional drivers.
What prompted you to look for a role in the Middle East?
I had thought about moving here a handful of years back but felt that I needed more experience before applying. The desire to come out here remained and I felt I had gained a sufficient amount of experience and knowledge to arrive and be a useful and productive member of the team from day one. With the current opportunity, I felt prepared and able to move here.
How have you found the move – how have you adapted, has it been hard, how different is life in Bahrain compared to your life in London?
Working life here is just like it is in any office around the world, although the social aspect is more collegiate. I say that because expats know that you are unlikely to know many or any people and therefore, colleagues and fellow expats (as well as local Bahrainis) you meet are much more willing to help and give advice. I would say that outside the office, there is a lot of cafe culture socialising and by that I mean a lot of socialising happens over meals and drinks. Also, Bahrain is more relaxed about alcohol compared to the other GCC countries and so bars, clubs and the imitation Irish bar are aplenty.
Tell us about Trowers & Hamlins LLP and more specifically about the work they do in Bahrain
Trowers & Hamlins has four offices in the UK, four offices in the gulf and one office in Malaysia. There is a strong emphasis on real estate work, for which the firm is well known for both in the UK and the Middle East. Across the gulf the principal areas of work are corporate, banking/finance, property and construction. The firm was recently recognised for its real estate work and won the Real Estate Team of the Year award in Legal Week's Corporate Counsel Middle East Awards. The work in general, is challenging and exciting given the type of developments that exist in the middle-east and although based in Bahrain, I undertake work across the gulf region. The work is of a very good quality and my exposure to a variety of matters is much broader than it was when I was in London.
What is your role specifically?
I am based in Bahrain and along with a junior, undertake construction work (contentious and non-contentious). At present, we have a lot of dispute work which mainly consists of international arbitrations, although we are often asked to provide initial advice and contract interpretation. I am involved in marketing the construction outfit for Trowers, particularly in Bahrain.
Your role now – what are the main similarities/differences compared to your last role in London?
I like that in my current role the matters that are worked on are generally much larger and always more urgent. This means that the team needs to "fire up" much more quickly than I experienced in London. This is more of a cultural particularity than anything else. The type of work is not too different, but it is mainly the pace and the working styles that are quite different Here, in meetings for example, the first ten minutes or so is spent discussing pleasantries, whereas in London that is not always the norm. Here, the disputes often involve international parties and because of the region I work in, will often relate to other GCC countries.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I like the work, I like my colleagues and I like my location. I have a view of the sea every day and it is pretty much always sunny.
How have you developed personally and professionally since the move to Bahrain?
I have had to learn to work with a new culture and a new way of "doing business", which may sound daunting but in reality it is not. On a personal level, I have realised that I am far more independent that I thought I was.
Could you perhaps tell me about your childhood, schooling, time at university and your work history before joining Trowers?
I had a great childhood and spent all my school holidays including half terms in Rome with family and I have friends there who I have known longer than any friend in England. I know I was very lucky in that respect. I enjoyed school. I often look back and would like to go back in time and be at school again - both junior school and for A-levels. I had many laughs and also got in to trouble a few times but still feel as I did then, that the punishment never really fitted the crime. University was a blast, I made lifelong friends and met a very diverse bunch of people with whom I remain friends to this day. I'm not sure that there is anything about my work history that is different to many others'.
What made you decide on a career as a Lawyer?
It’s the only thing that appealed to me as a youngster – I don't know what planted that seed.
Who’s been the biggest influence on your career so far?
I cannot attribute influence to any one person, but the thing that has influenced me more than anything is the desire to win. I am a litigator at heart and like in any competition, winning is a very nice feeling.
What has been your greatest achievement so far in life (be it personal or professional)?
Driving a 1.2 litre Fiat Punto from London to Mongolia.
How do you relax – cars are your ‘thing’ aren’t they? In particular Alfa Romeos…
Yes, although driving cars isn't always relaxing - I love it. In Bahrain you can take your cars to track days at the F1 circuit and if you are prepared to risk your ride home, have a good time. That said, eating and drinking go down very well with me - especially a good bottle of red wine.
If you are a Corporate and Commercial Solicitor looking for options in the Middle East or Far East then you could do worse than contact our international team on 0203 846 3071. Ask for Hannah Allan to begin with and you will know you are in safe hands. You can also browse some of our international jobs by clicking here.