Firstly, how do international secondments work at Norton Rose Fulbright, and what are the kind of places that a secondee can find themselves working?
All trainees have the opportunity to go on international secondment at least once during their training contract at Norton Rose Fulbright. There are a range of secondments available across the firm’s offices, such as France, Japan, Italy, Greece, Singapore and Australia. All trainees are asked to rank their order of preference for location, and which seat they would prefer to do their secondments in. We send our preferences to the trainee development team and they try to accommodate everyone as much as possible.
How have you benefitted from undertaking an international secondment and what skills have you gained from doing so? What kind of work do you find yourself doing on your international secondment?
I went to Athens for six months and it was really amazing. I think the best parts were being able to experience different cultures, live abroad and meet other people within the firm’s network. I was working in shipping and asset finance, advising banks primarily on financing and refinancing loans for the purchase of new and existing vessels. A As the turnover of deals in our Athens office is quite high, I was exposed to several transactions which I found very interesting. I also found that there was a lot more client contact, which helped to develop my client-facing skills and networking abilities. Being in a new city also meant I had to be adaptable and flexible to a new culture, language and cuisine – this opportunity was beneficial both personally, as well as professionally.
My day-to-day tasks often involved assisting with the documentation relating to the delivery of ships, liaising with registries and local counsel, and performing case management.
Is it extremely competitive to get chosen for an international secondment, and if so, what can trainees do to stand out?
An international secondment is available to all trainees at Norton Rose Fulbright. The competitive element is which secondment you get to do; some locations can be more competitive than others, depending on the cycle. International offices can only take a certain number of trainees. All these elements contribute to the placement process. A In general, though, the firm is very accommodating; but it does help to be flexible.
Moving abroad to a new workplace is quite a big jump. Does Norton Rose Fulbright offer a support system for secondees?
Yes – I moved to Athens with another trainee in my intake. We were provided with a flat in Athens and had transport organised for us upon arrival. In the flat, we also had a file containing useful information which had been put together by the previous trainees, containing useful tips on places to go, ways to get around and important phone numbers. The local HR manager was also there to meet us and provide any information or help we needed on our first day.
There is also a group chat for trainees from different firms in Athens – it was a great chance to keep in touch with people in a similar position.
How does working internationally differ from the work trainees do before their secondment? Would you say that it’s structured differently in relation to seat? Is there an opportunity to work outside of the firm, as part of a business in-house legal team?
I would say the structure is quite similar, as you are just doing your next seat but in a different office. There are certain differences though; the Athens office is smaller than the London office, so there is an opportunity for you to take on more responsibility with the potential to run your own files.
There may be opportunities to work outside the office, depending on client and business needs. Whilst I was on secondment, the client needed assistance reviewing some documents before a signing and I was sent to assist with this.
What is your main piece of advice for someone who is considering an international secondment?
I think it is a really good idea, it provides you with the opportunity to travel and live in a new city, without having to worry about some of the logistics, as the firm sorts out your accommodation.
Career-wise, the networking opportunities are fantastic, and you will gain confidence as well as exposure to new experiences, whilst hopefully enjoying some great weather.
What has been your most memorable or valuable experience on your secondment?
Client contact was my most valuable take away from my secondment. In addition, being able to expand my network within the firm, sharpen my finance skills, travel round Greece and enjoy delicious Greek food made it a truly rewarding experience