Could you give us a quick description of where you’re doing your secondment and the kind of work you’re doing there?
I am on a six month secondment to our Singapore office, working in the Project Development and Finance team. We work on power, oil and gas, infrastructure and other large projects all over the world. In Singapore our projects are often in interesting jurisdictions such as Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Did you choose to undertake an international secondment, or is it part of the training contract programme at Shearman & Sterling?
A secondment to the Singapore office was my first choice but I would have been happy with any international seat. It is by no means compulsory at Shearman to undertake an international secondment but the opportunity is there and it is actively encouraged from the beginning of your training contract.
What do you feel are the benefits to life as a secondee?
Secondments are a lot of fun. You work hard and get great experience during the week, then travel to exciting places on the weekends. Singapore is especially good for this as it is so well connected to southeast Asia. I have also really enjoyed the experience of living and working in a new country, discovering new favourite places and I’m always trying to make the most of my time here.
What has been your most memorable or valuable experience at your secondment so far?
This has to be being invited along to our annual Asia Lawyers Weekend in Shanghai. There I met lawyers from Shearman’s Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong offices as well as senior management from New York. It was invaluable to learn about the work we do in the rest of Asia, increase my network within the firm and have an incredible weekend in Shanghai!
Did you find yourself in a state of culture shock when you first started? Was there a support system in place with Shearman & Sterling to help you get to grips with your new post/home?
One of the reasons secondments abroad are so great is because there are support systems everywhere. Shearman lawyers who had been out to Singapore when they were trainees gave me a pack with a guide of hints and tips for living here. As Shearman is organised by practice group rather than office, I have a lot of support from the Projects team in London, who make me feel like part of the team there as well. The trainees from the other firms are another close support network who are going through the same things as you.
How does the work differ from what you were up to before your secondment? For instance, is it structured differently in relation to seats, and are you working within the firm or as part of an in-house legal team?
I am still working within the firm. Because our work is international, I work with the London office quite a lot so some of my work is similar to that in London. However, as this is a smaller office I get greater responsibility and am treated more like an associate. We also have more deals centred in Southeast Asia so the jurisdictions I work with can be different.
What’s your best piece of advice for anyone considering an international secondment?
Stop considering it and just go! It is an incredible opportunity that many other jobs don’t offer in the same way. Go with a real commitment to making the most of the experience and you will have a great time.