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Denis Nifontov

Associate, Ship Finance

After finishing an undergraduate degree in Law, I enrolled onto an LLM in Maritime Law. After my studies, I began working for a marine insurance broker, starting in claims, but then moving into broking. Two years later, I was offered an opportunity to try my hand at underwriting. Whilst working in insurance, I did the part-time LPC. Due to ongoing projects at work I kept postponing my training contract applications, even after completing my LPC. Faced with this dilemma during yet another application cycle, I realised that there would never be a perfect time. I finally took the leap and I have never looked back.

When choosing a firm, there were three factors at play for me. First, I wanted to work at a firm with an international reach and culture. With my background, this was a given: I was born in Russia, grew up between Russia and in England, studied for a year in Germany, have done work across the globe and have always loved to travel and explore. Second, I wanted to use what I learnt in marine insurance. Third, I was reluctant to give up a good career unless it were with the best possible firm for me. The choice was easy as HFW ticked all three boxes with abundance. Its international credentials are undisputable. The culture at HFW is that of an international community. HFW has a rich heritage and a rightfully excellent reputation for, amongst the other areas, its shipping and insurance work.

My first seat was in Ship Finance. The learning curve was very steep, the work complex and varied. As a Trainee, I was given a high degree of responsibility, client contact and autonomy (with the necessary supervision). I learnt a great deal from some of the best experts in the field.

In the second seat, I was offered a three-month secondment with an insurance broker client. I jumped at the opportunity. It was a great perspective on the workings of an in-house legal team. The latter half of this seat was with the Insurance Litigation team back at HFW. This was my first taste of contentious work. It was an action packed three months filled with variety: from complex, black-law reinsurance matters to general commercial litigation for the insured parties of our insurer clients.

My third seat was in Singapore – focusing on Shipping Litigation. HFW made the transition overseas extremely simple: after a very comfortable flight, I arrived in my central apartment in Singapore and a few days later was walking into our Singapore office to begin my first day. My final seat was back in London, also in Shipping Litigation.

I qualified into the Firm's Ship Finance team in September 2018. As I look back on my training contract I can honestly say that my expectations of the firm were been exceeded. Aside from the excellent work done here, HFW excels in terms of its people. Be it in the office or at drinks in the evening, or on the playing fields with one of the firm sports clubs, our colleagues are not just great lawyers, but also a fun and friendly bunch!

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