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Alumna learned legal nuances in Dubai

February 28, 2014 | Alumni

Sanya Shah ’12 never imagined the valuable insight she would gain working at an international law firm in Dubai. Working in a young legal system not only allowed her to refine her legal expertise, but the experience also developed global skills that will help her in future endeavors.

Shah was no stranger to international cultures, having spent her childhood in the Middle East. While attending The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, she also spent time working at Boehringer Ingelheim, a pharmaceutical company based in Germany.

After graduation, Shah decided to put her legal degree to use overseas by taking a position at HPL Yamalova & Plewka JLT in Dubai to get a better understanding of the role of lawyers in a different country.

“I just wanted to see how it would be to work out there as opposed to just living there,” she said.

Shah’s position as a legal intern included spending a lot of time working on real estate law, dealing with everything from investors who purchased property without signing contracts during the Dubai real estate boom to others who lost money as a result of faulty planning. She also worked on employment disputes, interacting with clients from India, Czechoslovakia, and the U.K.

Shah says her duties involved a lot of long hours and drafting contracts, as well as pleadings, talking with clients, and researching laws, much like any other associate’s job.

Dubai’s legal system, however, posed a number of complicated issues unlike anything Shah had dealt with in the U.S. “Dubai has a very new, young legal system,” she said. “So we were kind of like the wild west of law where there are really no laws set in stone.”

One of the more frustrating aspects for Shah was the absence of precedent in the local U.A.E. courts, where matters are handled on a case-by-case basis.

“The most difficult thing was realizing that you might have a fair argument but sometimes things aren’t going to go your way because the judge said so,” she said.

Although the experience was challenging at times, Shah found it to be a useful opportunity to utilize her language skills in an international environment, something she wishes was more prevalent in the United States.

“I think that’s one thing that’s lacking in the U.S., is that understanding that law translates all over globally,” Shah said.

Shah recently returned to the United States for personal reasons, and is working at JPMorgan Chase & Co. She also passed the bar exam in New York.

Her future aspirations include using the knowledge gained from her previous experiences work in international business.

Optimistic about her own future, Shah advises other law students to follow their passion.

“Do want you want to do, and you’ll be successful at it,” she said.