From celebrity events to life-saving support on my secondment

During his second year as a trainee at Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co, Tom Gray was lucky enough to spend six months on secondment with Oxfam. Now a senior associate over in Dubai, Tom tells us about the positive impact his experience had on his career.

  • Last updated Feb 10, 2018 5:06:49 PM
  • By Tom Gray, Senior Associate at Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co
Image courtesy of Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co

My training contract was a great experience. I was thrown in to the deep end – which I enjoyed, with lots of responsibility and also all the relevant support. The firm took the time to understand me, the way I work and helped me to develop my knowledge and commercial nous. After completing my training contract, I qualified into the Projects Group and I’m currently working in our Dubai office, mainly advising emerging market governments and private companies looking to invest in those jurisdictions.

The secondment opportunities at WLG were a real draw when I was applying for training contracts. In an ideal world, I wanted to work with a charity during my training contract and the Oxfam secondment was the perfect opportunity to do so. It’s a great thing to be able to use your professional skills in supporting a personal passion. I joined their office in Oxford for six months during my fourth seat. I had to be hands on from day one, and had exposure to a variety of contracts and specialised work.

Real work making a real difference

I’m proud to have rewritten the ‘contract survival kit’, which is a toolkit dispatched to Oxfam’s field offices across the world. In emergencies like hurricanes and earthquakes or diseases, those on the ground need to be able to respond rapidly. The toolkit is designed so that field workers can pick it up and have everything they need ready, such as contracts for transport, supplies, and for buildings like aid centres.

One of my highest value projects on secondment was a charity gala for the Dubai International Film Festival. It was the first year that Oxfam had the opportunity to raise some funds at the event, which is a glamorous, star-studded occasion that raises a huge amount of money for charity each year. I was heavily involved in the project as I negotiated and wrote everything from hire contracts to supplier contracts, and more.

These projects, among others, gave me a wonderful insight into Oxfam’s work. I was able to see it for myself when I visited their emergency relief warehouse in Oxford. I think you need to have a strong understanding of their work and goals in order to do your job as their lawyer properly. As most departments were generally unfamiliar with legal jargon, I had to adapt and go back to basics a little bit – it really tests your knowledge, because you have to thoroughly understand your work to explain it to others.

How my secondment shaped my future

Once you’re qualified, the expectations on you are high and my secondment was great preparation for that. I still had support from the firm during the secondment, especially as I was preparing for qualification, but it was great to get such real experience with Oxfam and be treated as any qualified lawyer would be. This involved being quick to respond as anyone could come to me with questions and they’d expect a quick response there and then. It could be daunting at times, but I had support and it was great for my personal development and confidence as a lawyer.

For anyone looking at secondments, I’d say definitely go for it. I think it’s important to get a change of atmosphere and environment, working with different people on varied projects and gaining a broader sense of what it takes to be a lawyer. It’s very useful to get that exposure, especially if you have a passion for the place that you’re going. If given the chance, I would do it all over again.

Are you looking for a training contract that can offer exciting secondments and international opportunities? Take a look at to find out more about trainee life, and apply for one of their vacation schemes or training contract. 

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