Hong Kong-born Cynthia Trench has been living in the UAE for 27 years and runs the Dubai law firm Trench and Associates, specialising in corporate and property law as well as private clients. She was the first woman expatriate to be licensed as a lawyer in Dubai in 1996, and the first lawyer to register a will at the Dubai International Financial Centre’s Wills and Probate Registry (a legal entity independent from UAE laws) when it was launched last May. A DIFC will, which costs Dh10,000 (or Dh15,000 for “mirror” wills for a couple) allows non-Muslim expatriates to register English-language wills, and any disputes to be heard in the DIFC courts.
The first thing I do is walk my dog Brienne around the Arabian Ranches, where I’ve owned a villa for the past 10 years. Before that I rented, mostly in Jumeirah and Umm Suqeim. Dubai was such a village back then and communities were close-knit, with lots of garden parties. I also have a cat called Ginger. Both are from local rescue centres. Breakfast is yoghurt and berries, granola and soy milk or mango, papaya and my favourite pomelo, with a handful of vitamin tablets on the side.
My drive to work, in Bur Dubai near the BurJuman Centre, takes half an hour and I use the time to call my PA, Joanne, or my lawyers to discuss the day ahead.
I make sure to say my good mornings to the team before I head into my office to check email. The business has grown to 21 staff since I first got my licence 20 years ago; there were only 50 to 100 foreign lawyers in Dubai back then.
I meet three to four clients a day – some for mergers and acquisitions but a lot personally, too. Many of my clients come to me to arrange DIFC wills, and I’m surprised how many of them have been duped by unlicensed legal advisers with unenforceable “UAE-compliant” or “Dubai” wills before finally coming to me. It is so important to have a will anywhere you live and protecting your assets is important. I have seen families dragged through the courts for years before any monies are released. I also take time to talk to various groups across the city on inheritance matters every month. Recently I’ve talked to a group at Masafi and about 150 staff at Emirates Airline.
I bring a packed lunch – anything from seared salmon with vegetables to tuna and avocado salad or homemade chicken noodle soup. I research holiday ideas while I eat. I love scuba diving and recently took a four-day break to Rendaang in Malaysia with my best friend, Laura, and her family – we spent two of those days diving. I got my Padi Open Water certificate 30 years ago but the advanced level only four years ago.
Supervising my team is very important to me – I have two associate lawyers and five paralegals – and I usually review their drafts and discuss strategy on client cases. When it comes to mergers and acquisitions, we will go to the client’s office to discuss structure and agreements required; we can then spend hours going through due diligence papers and negotiating final agreements. I also spend a lot of time with my PA and finance manager to review our budget, targets and projections.
I schedule a lot of out-of-office meetings with clients or new contacts at the Capital Club in DIFC, of which I am a member; it has a professional atmosphere. I also go to networking events there, or at the World Trade Club, as well as the British Business Group.
I try to make it to the gym twice a week for weights and interval training with my personal trainer. At least once a week I’m at Dubai English Speaking School in the evening for an event or meeting. I’m the chairwoman of the board of governors and proud to play such a constructive role. In February they named the library after me, which is a real honour.
I come home to a nice healthy meal cooked by my maid; tonight it’s organic chicken with lemon slices. I always buy organic meat and vegetables. A couple of times a week I’ll head out for dinner – last night it was Cipriani’s with a friend, and earlier this week I had the most amazing beef rib shepherd’s pie at the Four Seasons with my godson, Louis. At the weekend, I stay home more, so I have time to myself and with my pets. And I’ve just found HBO Now on my Apple TV, so I’m catching up with Game of Thrones.
I have just bought a crystal lyre for sound healing and am trying to meditate to its song for 10 minutes to wind down at night. If I have the chance, it’s wonderful to do this by the lake in the Ranches, with the birds chirping and the breeze blowing. I usually go to bed at 11pm – the cat and dog are not allowed upstairs – and take an hour to catch up with reading before I fall asleep.
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