28 members, one legal system…
EU law, or European Union law, is a system of law that is specific to the 28 members of the European Union. This system overrules the national law of each member country if there is a conflict between the national law and the EU law.
Why is it important? What does it involve?
EU law relates to a wide range of different matters; from agriculture to competition law. As the European Union grew in size, the idea was to create a level playing field and harmonise the laws across the Union regarding certain matters, mostly trade.
This is a relatively new area of law, which only started to develop in the latter half of the 20th century. EU law is important because it ensures that the populations of the member states are treated, and treat others, equally.
There is often a large amount of paper work involved in this area of law, especially if the case has been brought to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). In order for a matter to be admissible to the ECJ, all domestic remedies must have been exhausted, which means the case must have already been considered in the highest court in the country.
Often these cases can be huge and involve large numbers of people, so will require lots or organisation and delegation. You may also find yourself working on disputes involving other national law systems and languages, which will make matters super complex and multifaceted.
In this area of law, you will either be working for, or against, the state. There are a large number of government lawyers who are required to protect the interests of the state, whilst a number of other lawyers work for private individuals and companies to make sure that member states do not surpass the powers they are given.
You might even find yourself in Luxembourg at some point working at the European Court of Justice (ECJ). This is the highest court in Europe and makes binding decisions for all countries in the EU.
Break it down for me a little bit!
If you are interested in international law, then EU law will offer you plenty of scope for career development. Additional language skills can be useful, especially if you work at the ECJ or on cross border disputes. You can use pretty much any language during a court hearing in the ECJ (Klingon probably isn’t allowed though). However, you should be aware that all the deliberations of the court are in French.
A ‘Day in the Life’ of Charlotte West, Trainee Solicitor at Nabarro.
What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office?
I have breakfast and a coffee while going through my inbox. There is a dangerously good coffee shop near the office that fuels my mornings! I like to go through my inbox, read the knowledge bulletins that have come in overnight and prepare my task list for the day ahead.
Could you give us a quick breakdown of how you spend the average day in this seat?
A large proportion of my work is research based. Therefore I often spend my day researching various points of law or looking into more commercial points such as different sectors and markets. EU and Competition law is fairly technical therefore there is plenty of scope for detailed research.
Aside from research based tasks, I also carry out discrete tasks on the various projects the team are working on. As the department takes on both non-contentious and contentious work, I have been assisting with various tasks on some of the team’s big cases. As well as research tasks, this also includes document review and assisting with the preparation of case documents.
In my lunch break, I try and pop out for some fresh air– there’s a great market near our office on Wednesdays where I can do my shopping for the rest of the week – one of the definite bonuses of living in Brussels!
How much do you correspond with senior colleagues and clients on a daily basis?
The Brussels office works seamlessly
with the London office, therefore I am in frequent communication with partners and associates across the team. I have had the opportunity to work for everyone in the department, and as such have been exposed to a wide variety of work.
What sort of responsibilities do you have as a trainee in EU law? Are you tackling hands-on project work or taking a more general skills-based approach?
In general, my experience of the work of a trainee in EU law has been fairly skills based. I have had excellent opportunities to develop my written communication and research skills. However, the reality of life as a trainee in Brussels is that working and living abroad exposes you to a variety of experiences both in and outside work that prove invaluable.