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Meet the lawyer

Yassin Salla

Yassin Salla

University: London School of Economics
Degree: International relations
Year of qualification: 2020
Position: Associate
Department: Financial regulation

What attracted you to a career in law?

I was curious about law for quite some time, although my interest in the profession was cemented by work experience and internships, which took place in several industries, including hospitality, law and banking. I found law to be the most interesting and thought my skillset was most suited to that industry.

Why solicitor not barrister?

I never considered being a barrister, primarily because I thrive off the collaborative and team working nature that comes with being a solicitor. I like talking to people and giving advice, so naturally I am just more suited to this side of the profession.

How did you decide which firms to apply to?

I looked at league tables and specific areas of law that I thought I would find interesting, which was generally focused around corporate finance. It’s important to identify which area of law you find interesting and what type of firm you think you’d be suited to. I knew I wanted to work in an international, corporate firm that was doing well in the league tables. From this I applied for open days and vacation schemes. These interactions with the firms enabled me to narrow the search once more.

What do you think made your application successful?

I researched the firm to help me write a tailored application. I then spoke about what it was that I was interested in within the firm. I tried to look at the application process from the perspective of recruiters, who have to read hundreds of applications that are often littered with generic statements. With this in mind, I made my application personal, so that when recruiters read it they got a sense of who I was.

Which departments did you train in?

Litigation and dispute resolution, regulatory finance, asset finance and public M&A.

How does the qualification process work at the firm?

As a fourth seater, the HR team contacts you to discuss your options. So, if you’re still unsure, this is a great opportunity to get some advice. HR will advise you on the factors to consider, with this preliminary discussion also providing an overview of your interests. When the formal process begins, you are invited to talk to the departments and express your interest in qualifying into that team. At this stage, the departments don’t require much more from you because they’ve seen you working as a trainee for six months already, you’ll have also already had an appraisal during this period, as well as general discussions with members of the team.

Once you have sent your department preferences to HR, the partners formally make offers.

Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?

There’s no such thing as a typical day. The pace and the nature of what I do is dictated by the matters that myself and my team are involved in. It ranges from having lots of meetings, to conducting extensive research on a piece of regulatory law and drafting memos or policy areas for specific clients. No two days ever look the same.

Please discuss a current/recent specific deal/case, outlining your role in the matter.

I’m currently working on an interesting matter regarding an African country, which is looking to set up an international financial centre. The country wants to onshore different legislation and regulations to guide the financial centre. They requested our help, which involves reviewing the draft financial legislation and regulations that they’ve created, and suggesting amendments to these documents. I was born and raised in The Gambia, and to work with an African country’s government to advise on the legislation and regulations to guide their financial practices is really fulfilling.

It has been a steep learning curve for me because I am learning as I provide the advice.

How involved are you with business development and promoting the firm?

I have been involved in drafting a key piece called Guide to Financial Regulation in Africa.

It’s about exactly what the title suggests, with a focus on the largest GDP African countries. I worked on it for several months, so having it all come together, going to print, receiving my copy, distributing it to clients and having it be well received has been an incredibly rewarding experience.   

Outside of that, I sit on the REACH (Race Equality and Celebrating Heritage) network, which is the firm’s network for advancing race, equality and the celebration of different heritages. My role is geared towards raising awareness of REACH, and the pro bono initiatives and corporate social responsibility that we get involved in. It would be difficult to encapsulate everything we have done since its inception, but we have been working with a broad range of charities and organisations, helping to amplify their own voices and what they do.

What makes your firm stand out from the rest?

Without a second thought, the people. This is relevant across the spectrum and there’s a real collaborative feel. Since joining the firm in 2018, I have always felt like I have someone to speak to and someone who can help me. The people have created a community culture – it’s a very close-knit and supportive environment. I had the opportunity to discuss my journey to Clifford Chance and more importantly my experience as a trainee in my interview, which is available to watch on YouTube.

What advice do you have for budding solicitors who are contemplating a career in law?

I would encourage aspiring solicitors to apply for internships and work experience.

Unless you see the profession up close, it’s hard to conceptualise what the role will look like for you. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the work experience that I had before joining Clifford Chance as a trainee. Clifford Chance offers a fantastic global virtual internship.

Networking is also important for budding solicitors – for example, being on LinkedIn and reaching out to people. I’ve spoken to lots of budding solicitors over the past couple of years who just want some insight into my role.

Clifford Chance also has several mentoring initiatives. In the past these have involved mentees being invited to the firm and given the chance to speak to trainees. If you are finding it hard to secure any experience, I would encourage you to apply to these mentoring schemes.

What is the wider culture like – eg, are there sports teams/trips out? Is there a LGBT group, women’s group etc?

The firm has several different affinity groups – REACH is one of these. There is also an LGBTQ+ group called Arcus and a women’s network called Accelerate.

Each affinity group has its own initiatives. For example, Accelerate broadcasted the results of the gender pay gap report and works closely with the firm’s management to set tangible goals in working towards gender pay parity. REACH also works closely with management to set tangible goals to reach racial equality and Arcus does the same in terms of LGBTQ+.

Last month was also Black History Month, so the REACH network set up several events to showcase the various aspects that the network is working on, as well as panel discussions on important topics – for example, what it means to be BAME, whether we should even be using the term BAME and our specific experience as racial minorities.

There are also social events, from ski trips to pub quizzes.

Describe the firm in three words.

Innovative, friendly, hardworking.

What’s the biggest opportunity you’ve been given since joining the firm?

I was the chair of Clifford Chance’s trainee committee. The firm has around 200 trainees, taking about 50 on in each cohort. The trainee committee is made up of the chairperson and other trainee cohort representatives, which aims to further the voices of trainees and identify ways to make the trainee experience better.

As the chair of the committee, I had access to key stakeholders in the firm and was involved in periodic conversations with HR. As a result of the committee new internal secondment opportunities were created and the number of client opportunities were increased.

We also worked on mental health awareness programmes during my tenure as chair. In this role I was thrown out of my comfort zone and had a high degree of visibility. I was nervous about whether I could execute it and do the role well, but it was an incredibly valuable experience.

What’s your signature dish?

Benachin, which is more widely known as jollof rice. It’s originally a Senegambian dish – I love cooking – and eating! – it.