Hot stuff: a seat in Hong Kong

Clifford Chance's Bryony Theaker spent her second seat as one of six trainees posted to Hong Kong

Why does Clifford Chance have an office in Hong Kong?

The city has been a hub for international business for a long time. And Hong Kong is now also important as a gateway to the domestic Chinese market - the office is tapping into some of these deals too.

How did the Hong Kong office compare to the London office?

It's much smaller, so it's easy

to get to know everyone. As there are fewer people, you get work which you might not do as a trainee in London.

I worked longer hours in Hong Kong than in London. People tend to work slightly longer there in general - office hours include Saturday mornings! And my department was particularly busy while I was there - Asian economies have been less affected by the financial crisis.

What kind of work were you doing?

My seat was general finance. The work I did was broader than what you would get in a finance seat in London, where the team you're in will focus on one particular type of deal. I worked on financings for a hotel on the Palm Islands in Dubai and for a mining company, and on some acquisition finance deals. I also got involved in legal research, in particular for banks considering moving out of Europe to Asia because of proposed regulatory changes.

What did you learn about being a lawyer in Hong Kong that you wouldn't have learnt in London?

I learnt about a different culture, and how culture affects the way business is done. For example, when you meet someone in Hong Kong business cards are treated with great reverence. There's a specific way to hand one over, and when you receive one you have to scrutinise it carefully and then keep it in front of you and look at it from time to time. Also feng shui (traditional Chinese aesthetic principles) affects everything in Hong Kong, even the way our office is laid out.

You learn to watch what other people do and adjust your behaviour accordingly. Also, people there were often keen to help me understand their culture - clients would show us their signatures on documents and explain how the feng shui in the Chinese characters worked.

Did you find anything about being abroad difficult?

I found Hong Kong easier to live in than London! The firm gives each trainee sent out there their own apartment with a cleaner, in a building with a swimming pool. Public transport is very good, so I could get to the office in less than 10 minutes.

It was hot, but I like the heat. And it was typhoon season when I was there - we saw some spectacular storms, but they were more exciting than frightening!

What was the best thing about being in Hong Kong?

Meeting and getting to know our Hong Kong colleagues, who were a very friendly group of people. We'd always have dinner together if we were working late and we'd also get together at the weekends, often for trips on the office junk (a kind of Chinese yacht) .

Hong Kong is a great springboard for travelling further around Asia - I went to Borneo, Kuala Lumpur and Sydney!