Company Culture | International Firms

For a firm to have expanded to a number of different continents, it’s not surprising that, on the whole, it’s got to be pretty big. Working for an international firm means having a network of colleagues working in different time zones, sometimes with vastly different cultures and languages to the UK office of that firm. With this in mind, working at an international law firm is one of the best ways to get a sense of - and to be a part of - how law operates on a global scale.

Quite often, international law firms come into existence via mergers, with firms outside of the UK combining practice with existing City or national law firms. This often means an integration of two or more firms’ cultures, making international law firms forward-thinking and dynamic. Yet alongside this, the merged firms often each have a long history of practice, making international firms prestigious and established.

As much as you might feel quite geographically distant from your colleagues around the world, in reality, you’ll probably be communicating with them a lot more than you think. Trainees and NQ lawyers at international firms often find themselves liaising with jurisdictions elsewhere in the world - especially if an overseas department has a particular area of expertise. Having an international presence also means that these firms sometimes provide seats abroad and international secondments, so you can truly take advantage of the firm’s global links. Once you’re qualified, you’ll most likely get the chance to travel as part of your job.

Type of Work | International Firms

If you list every office and jurisdiction of an international law firm, you get a sense of how vast that firm is. So it won’t come as a surprise that international firms work with international clients - you could find yourself working on huge cases with clients who also have bases all over the world.

You can expect a lot of cross-border transactions and cases to come your way, in contentious and non-contentious matters. With different countries’ laws coming into play, it’s likely that things could get complicated - to work in this type of firm, you have to relish a challenge!

Working in an international firm is a chance to foray into energy law and environmental law, with a lot of these areas depending on, and working within, the world’s diverse geographical regions.

Working in finance law at an international firm will also give you a perspective on how the world’s economy functions on a global scale, and how international banks and financial services play into this.

Brexit is also going to change the picture of international firms’ work, with European clients who operate in Britain, and vice versa, needing stronger business advice than ever. A lot of international law firms have established specific brexit departments to deal with such clients; you could be helping brexit to run smoothly for international clients.

Generally, international law firms tend to be full-service law firms; while they serve international clients, this doesn’t limit their practice to international law itself. Working at an international firm will mean working with a lot of domestic clients, too, on everything from employment law to criminal law.

Where will I be working? | International Firms

While firms may have come into existence in a specific country or city, they sometimes choose not to adopt a ‘headquarters’ approach to their first office, giving equal prominence and resources to each office in the world. This helps them to achieve true international status, rather than being known for the country in which their headquarters are. So while you may be working at a newer office for the firm, you won’t feel subordinate to older, more established offices.

As your career progresses, you can expect to be travelling with work quite a lot, acting on behalf of clients all over the world. You might be in Europe one day, and New York the next.This will add a whole other dimension to your day-to-day office life, and you’ll be expected to take changes in routine in your stride!

It’s worth noting that if the circumstances allow it, you may get the chance to transfer to an office in a different country or continent - if taking up a long-term position abroad has ever appealed to you, an international firm could take you there.

International firms have offices elsewhere in Europe, as well as in America, Asia and beyond. You could have the option to specialise in areas of law which pertain specifically to these continents, which would anchor your travelling and work within that specific continent.

Is this the right type of firm for me?

International law may be for you if…

-You adapt well to living, and working, in vastly diverse environments.

-You have an interest in how law plays out on an international scale.

- You enjoy being a small fish in a huge pond.

You may want to consider if…

- You’re a stickler for routine and you like to have a set schedule.

- You’re afraid of flying! (or at least frequent long-haul travel).

- You find it hard to work with people who are a long distance away.

International Firms articles

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    A Client Secondment as Part of an IP & Media Seat

    James Currie is a trainee solicitor at Taylor Wessing but is currently undertaking a client secondment as part of his seat in IP and Media. His experience has been a fruitful one thus far, and James recommends that all trainees undertake a secondment if possible, to ensure for ‘a more rounded training contract’.

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    A Day in the Life - Ben Smith, Second Seat Trainee at BCLP

    We wanted to get the lowdown  for you on what life was like in Corporate Finance Law and at BCLP, so we sat down for a chat with Ben Smith, who is a second seat trainee currently focused on the Corporate Finance sector. 

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    A Vacation Scheme with an International Firm

    Clara Garfield completed a vacation scheme at international firm, Taylor Wessing in 2011. Throughout the scheme, Clara felt well supported by the firm and commends the ethos of the firm and their hiring policy – Taylor Wessing look for people who are a good fit for the firm’s culture, not just those with top grades.

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    An International Secondment in Paris

    Mark Pavli is a trainee solicitor at Herbert Smith Freehills. He undertook an international secondment in Paris, where ‘the long lunch with a glass of wine is alive and well’ (one can only dream). Mark advises aspiring solicitors to be open to new things, and you can read more of his interview below…

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    An International Secondment in São Paulo

    Lorenco Lopes-Sabino is an associate in competition law at Magic Circle firm Slaughter and May. He undertook an international secondment in São Paulo which despite its “sheer size”, has “great food” and a “vibrant atmosphere”. Lorenco also describes his time in Natal as “about as far away as you can get from London, and an absolutely fantastic break from São Paulo’s hectic pace.” He also did a bit of legal work, obviously, which you can read about below...

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    Are you interested in a vacation scheme at Slaughter and May?

    Vacation schemes are increasingly being used to scout out the emerging talent, but just how important are they at Slaughter and May? Sofia Gymer interviews Robert Byk, one of the partners responsible for recruitment.