Meeting with Youcef Rahmani
- Youcef Rahmani
How was your time at Sciences Po?
After a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Middle Eastern Studies at McGill University (Canada, Montreal), I decided to apply to the Sciences Po Law School’s Master’s in Economic Law. This programme is unique since it allows students with no undergraduate background in law to essentially pass the Paris bar exam and qualify as French lawyers within two or three years.
My experience as a student at Sciences Po was very enriching. In my first year, I enrolled in a “projet collectif” involving the Paris Court of Appeals. Our team worked with the instruction chamber in charge of investigating terrorism and crimes against humanity. Given that the year 2015 was unfortunately very eventful in Paris regarding such crimes, my teammates and I were kept very busy conducting research for judges in the time we had off from our studies. This was my first practical experience with the judicial system, and it kept me motivated in the early days of my legal studies.
Overall, my time at Sciences Po was made up of interesting lectures delivered by experienced practitioners and stimulating conversations with my classmates. The programme also gives you the opportunity to pursue a gap year to gain professional experience or an academic year abroad. I used this year to intern in various law and consultancy firms and refine my career objectives.
If I had only one suggestion to make to the school, it would be to open a multi-faith reflection room. Given the large diversity of international and cultural profiles the school attracts, such a room would be a most welcome addition enabling students to enjoy a calm moment of meditation or prayer between classes and studies. Having studied at both McGill University and the University of Oxford, where such facilities exist and are celebrated by the student body, I believe Sciences Po and its students would greatly benefit from this option.
What is your current role / job?
I am currently an associate lawyer at Clifford Chance’s Casablanca office, in Morocco. I work mainly in banking and project finance for energy and infrastructure projects in Africa. It’s a practice that I find very compelling because it is extremely practical: we basically negotiate and draft all the financing agreements leading up to the construction, operation and maintenance of large powerplants and key infrastructure in a country. As an example, my firm is working on two new streetcar lines to be opened in Casablanca, which will positively impact the way people commute to work in the city and significantly reduce air pollution. Being of Algerian origin, I have always wanted to be involved in Africa’s extraordinary economic growth. This job has been my first step towards achieving this dream.
Why did you decide to join this firm?
Clifford Chance is an international law firm with many offices around the world. The Casablanca office is relatively recent and has thus enabled me to strike a perfect balance between having access to all the supporting services available in a large international firm, while getting to work within a smaller, hands-on team. In this sense, even as a junior associate, I am given more client exposure and responsibilities than an equivalently junior associate in a larger office.
How did you get the position?
During my gap year at Sciences Po, I interned at Clifford Chance Paris in the project finance team. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, as the team bustled with extraordinary energy and talent. I managed to maintain very good relations with some of my ex-teammates and colleagues. After finishing my Master’s in Law and Finance at the University of Oxford, which I pursued right after finishing Sciences Po, I was contacted by the team in Casablanca, some of whom I had previously worked with in Paris, and was offered an associate position. I very happily accepted the offer.
What are your daily challenges?
Having never lived in or even visited Morocco previously, some minor cultural adjustments were needed. However, the biggest challenge for me remains the fact that given the large deal flow and small team, the learning curve is a lot steeper and faster-paced. Obviously, this is also a positive point for anyone who enjoys a dynamic, challenging and fast-paced environment with great mentors who put their trust in your abilities from the very beginning.
What are your long-term objectives?
For the time being, I am very much enjoying my time as a project finance lawyer focusing on the African continent. In a year and a half, I will be starting a formal training contract at Clifford Chance in London, which will last two years. After that, I hope to qualify as a solicitor of England and Wales. My long-term projects are still unclear, but I harbour interests in many different fields and industries. To take one example, technology is becoming ever more present in the legal world, and I would definitely picture myself getting more involved in that sphere a few years down the line. More generally, I hope to be one day in a position to significantly give back to my community that helped shape who I am and gave me the confidence I needed to pursue my dreams.
What advice would you give to students seeking to pursue a career in project-finance?
I strongly believe that cultivating one’s differences in a positive, value-adding way can be key. Rather than trying to excel at things that will bring you down the trodden path, I always advise younger students to take pride in their unique qualities and skills, whether cultural, intellectual or other. Employers will remember you for how you stood out. In particular, I would argue that project finance is one of those fields where a strong cultural awareness and interdisciplinary intellectual curiosity are highly sought after. Firms in this field will look for individuals with unique profiles that don’t necessarily fit the usual corporate world. More generally, while there are many possibilities and encounters waiting for us, we sometimes limit ourselves to what we think is expected from us. I encourage students to step out of their zone of comfort and try new things. Apply for those programmes you think you’ll never get, sign up to that charitable initiative you usually ignore, you’ll be surprised!
Youcef Rahmani, Graduate of the Sciences Po Law School, Master in Economic Law, Programme Entreprises, marchés, régulations (EMR), 2018