Moving to Chicago: life on secondment in Mayer Brown’s stateside finance department
Going on international secondment is a great asset to your career, as well as a fantastic personal experience. We spoke to Sam Bold, a current trainee at Mayer Brown, about his six-month secondment in Chicago.
Could you give us a quick description of where you did your secondment and the kind of work you did there?
I spent 6 months in Mayer Brown's Chicago office, working as part of the finance team. Whilst on secondment I worked on a wide variety of matters across a range of product areas, including project finance, fund finance and securitisation.
Did you choose to undertake an international secondment, or is it part of the training contract programme at Mayer Brown?
I chose to undertake an international secondment. The opportunity to undertake an international secondment was one of the main reasons I chose to train at Mayer Brown. Currently Mayer Brown offers international secondments to Chicago and Frankfurt – in finance departments – and a litigation secondment in Hong Kong.
What do you feel are the benefits to life as a secondee?
The major benefit is the experience of working and living overseas.
From a work perspective, you’re exposed to new product lines, helping to both further and broaden your understanding of your chosen area of law. You also build a network of connections with employees in other offices. For example, although I was based in Chicago, I worked on matters with Mayer Brown employees based in New York, Houston and Mexico City; these connections have already proved useful when seeking US legal advice on matters back in London.
You also gain an insight into how to spot, and ultimately solve, legal issues that arise in other jurisdictions, a skill that I believe will be increasingly valuable in the modern business world. Socially it's also a great opportunity to experience life in a new city, meet new people and form new friendships. I was also fortunate to travel whilst on secondment, visiting both New York and Boston.
What was your most memorable or valuable experience at your secondment?
Assisting on a high-value securitisation for a Midwest bank was one of the most valuable experiences I had on secondment. I assisted with various aspects of the matter throughout the lifespan of the deal. In the US, there is no concept of a “trainee solicitor”, accordingly you are treated as a first-year associate, which brings added responsibility. The experience that I gained in Chicago and the responsibility I enjoyed, I believe will stand me in good stead when I qualify next year.
Outside of work I really enjoyed some of the sport on offer in Chicago. Watching a live NFL game, albeit in the freezing cold, was certainly one of the highlights of my secondment. Commuting in a sub-20 snowstorm is also something I'll remember!
Did you find yourself in a state of culture shock when you first started? Was there a support system in place at Mayer Brown to help you get to grips with your new post and home?
Personally no, everyone I met in Chicago was very welcoming and made me feel at home. I was fortunate in that I had a friend from the UK already living in Chicago who introduced me to people and took me to my first Cubs game.
At work I was assigned a buddy, a second year associate, who took me out for lunch on my first day and helped me settle into office life. I was also assigned a supervisor who was very helpful and made me feel part of the team from day one. I was invited to all of the department's social events; a few highlights included wine tasting (a monthly affair), an associates ball in December, and a department wide meal in February.
How did 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?
The work was broadly similar to the work done by the Finance team in London. That said, whilst on secondment I was fortunate to gain exposure to product areas, such as Fund Finance, that I had not worked on in London.
What’s your best piece of advice for anyone considering an international secondment?
I'd highly recommend an international secondment to anyone considering it. It's a fantastic opportunity to experience both working and living overseas. It's cliché but you get out of an international secondment what you put into it, I'd recommend making an effort to meet new people and try working in new product areas.
To find out more about opportunities at Mayer Brown, visit the firm's profile.
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