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How studying law led Anthony to a diverse and flexible career

"My Deakin degrees in commerce and law gave me the perfect launching pad."

When Anthony Jensen completed his combined commerce and law degree at Deakin’s Geelong Waurn Ponds campus, he never anticipated he would end up living and working so far from his home town of Geelong.

Now based in Dubai, where he recently commenced working as Senior Legal Counsel in the legal team of the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA), Anthony says ‘the diverse range of students at Deakin and its “worldly” outlook put me in good stead to gain this opportunity.’

In his previous role as an investigator in the Enforcement Division, Anthony led DFSA investigations into suspected contraventions of financial services and financial markets laws. Combining his legal and investigative skills, he also scrutinised breaches surrounding anti-money laundering, counter-terrorism and United Nations sanctions.

‘In my previous role, I applied the DFSA’s powerful suite of investigative tools to obtain evidence from a broad range of local and international sources, including interviewing suspects and witnesses under oath,’ he explains.

‘In my new role, I now advise my former Enforcement colleagues on the use of their investigative tools, strength of their evidence, and recommended enforcement action such as financial penalties or bans.  I also advise other DFSA teams on less adversarial matters such as regulatory risk assessments, contract reviews and law reform.'

Anthony’s first role after graduating from Deakin was as a corporate litigation lawyer at the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) where he worked on corporate governance, financial services and compensation cases. Building on his qualifications, he says education is a life-long process.

‘My Deakin degrees in commerce and law gave me the perfect launching pad for my career in corporate civil litigation at ASIC.  I then completed a master’s degree with a particular focus on my developing areas of interest and expertise, which were corporations law, and litigation.’

Moving to Dubai in early 2014, Anthony soon decided to further his education by sharpening his general knowledge of the Middle East and his specific knowledge of DFSA sanctions.

‘To this end, I undertook further study and became a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist. Next on my education horizon is another area with growing focus in the region and globally – Islamic finance,’ he says.

Since commencing his legal career, Anthony says he has enjoyed the diversity of his profession – from court room cases to complex international investigations. And in his role at ASIC it was the intensity and drama of the courtroom that he most enjoyed.

‘The judge knocks on his anteroom door signalling his imminent entrance, and the court clerk instructs all present to rise.  The judge walks in, robes flowing, and we all bow, take our seats and then it’s “game on”. Trials can be a tough slog and with many twists and turns, and not always successful, but the camaraderie formed among the trial team members can be lifelong.’

While Anthony rarely needs to attend court in his current role, he says the drama of the courtroom has now been replaced by the ‘thrill of the chase’.

‘The chase involves catching the suspects who have broken the law.  It is very satisfying to use our investigative tools to find the key piece of evidence or “smoking gun” that proves the suspect has broken the law, particularly when they have attempted to cover up their misconduct.’

But rewarding, interesting careers also come with challenges and Anthony says a recurring challenge is applying the unique jurisdiction of the DFSA.

As an independent authority, the DFSA is not the regulator for the financial services of all United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Emirate of Dubai, or even the whole City of Dubai.  Rather, it is responsible for regulating financial services conducted in, or from, the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). 

‘The DIFC was created in 2004 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE.  It has been described as a “city within a city”, within an Emirate, within the UAE,’ he explains.

‘The DIFC is a purpose-built financial free zone of around 110 acres, located within the City of Dubai.  It has a unique regulatory environment, including a bespoke set of commercial and civil laws, an independent regulator in the DFSA, and independent English-speaking common law courts, the DIFC Courts.’

The issue of jurisdiction is the key to determining whether DFSA-administered laws have been breached and it’s critical to determining if, and how, the authority’s investigative powers can be exercised.

‘For example, if a foreign bank defrauds a DIFC entity, a DFSA-administered law may have been broken.  However in order for the DFSA to investigate the misconduct and use its investigative powers outside the DIFC, we need to seek cooperation from the foreign bank’s home regulator.  This can raise complex legal and practical issues, including language barriers.  Dealing with these jurisdiction challenges keeps us on our toes and is one of the more interesting aspects of working at the DFSA,’ he says.

Living in Dubai with his wife and young son, Anthony describes the UAE’s most populous city as a vibrant geographic, cultural and economic hub with much to offer its expat population.

‘What we enjoy most is the “melting pot” atmosphere in Dubai.  A vast proportion of Dubai residents are from somewhere else and represent all continents.  This diversity brings with it different cultures including their food, music and ways of doing business (and driving!).  The UAE in general, and particularly Dubai, is also very ambitious to achieve on the world stage, constantly seeking to be the biggest and the best, which brings benefits for all residents and visitors.’

Apart from missing family and friends in Australia – which Anthony says is a challenge for any expat – the other common issue is adapting to Dubai’s desert climate, with hot, humid conditions during the summer.

‘The challenge is learning to avoid the heat, or finding ways to cope with it.  Both generally involve finding things to do in air conditioning, in the mornings or evenings when it is cooler or involving water.  Luckily, Dubai is well catered for in all these areas, including an indoor snow-covered mountain for skiing, and many water parks and beaches.’ he says.

Since taking his first step toward a legal career more than 15 years ago, Anthony has maintained that a law degree is a flexible and valuable qualification that does not necessarily limit a graduate to a career in law.

‘Our world is built on a foundation of laws … I cannot think of any aspect of public or private life that is not impacted or informed by at least one legal concept. It is not limited to the criminal, corporate or financial world. A law degree will always be useful because the knowledge and skills you gain will always be in demand from the world at large.  In short, the world needs lawyers.’

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