An overseas secondment is an indisputable bonus of training at an international law firm. Following a stint abroad, trainees return armed with a newfound confidence and a network of colleagues from around the globe. We spoke with Dechert trainees about the perks of undertaking an international seat.
Dechert’s six-seat training contract ensures that all trainees can expect at least one secondment in one of the firm’s international offices. Recent secondment opportunities have included a financial services seat in Dublin or Singapore, a competition seat in Brussels or a litigation-focused client secondment in Toulouse.
Dublin trainee Rachael McKendry is currently on secondment to Dechert’s London office, whilst London trainee Catherine Adams is three months into a seat in the Dublin office.
Dechert’s global footprint was a huge factor in Rachael’s decision to apply: ‘I wanted the opportunity to work with colleagues in different offices and work on cross-border matters’. Now well into the second year of her training contract, Rachael has frequently found herself working on matters with an international element. ‘On any given day I could be working with colleagues from, say, New York, Boston, Hong Kong or London. It makes the work so varied and interesting’.
The opportunity to move abroad was also an enticement for Catherine. ‘I’m quite familiar with the whole idea of living in a different country. I had spent time abroad during my degree and again after graduating from university, and I was keen for that to continue.’ And her secondment to Dublin has not disappointed, ‘So far, Ireland has felt very homely!’
Despite the geographical proximity of the Irish capital and London, the prospect of moving to an unfamiliar city and starting a new job all at the same time can still be a daunting one. To make the transition as smooth as possible, Dechert has all bases covered. Rachael received details and pictures of her London accommodation in advance, was picked up from the airport and even had a gym membership set up for her by the firm. A few days before starting work, she was also invited to attend a training session and social event at her new workplace. ‘Meeting everyone in a social setting, from partners to trainee supervisors to the trainees themselves, was brilliant. It put me at ease and I felt a lot more confident going in on the Monday already knowing what to expect’.
The Dublin office is an integral part of Dechert’s international network. The bulk of the work undertaken is finance-focused, making a secondment to the Irish office a great option for trainees looking to qualify in this area. This was a particularly attractive proposition for Catherine, who had already completed (and enjoyed!) a financial services seat in London and was keen to build on the knowledge she had acquired. So far, she has found the work to be similar, albeit with a slightly different angle, due in part to its focus on Irish funds.
One of the attractions of a secondment in Dechert’s London office for Rachael was the range of practice areas on offer, in particular litigation, where she is currently sitting. The interplay between the different departments was also intriguing. ‘I already knew the firm was very collaborative from dealing with other offices internationally but it’s so interesting to see how the different practice areas in the London office collaborate and work with each other’. And although the London office is much larger than its Irish counterpart, Rachael certainly doesn’t feel as though she’s been given any less responsibility. ‘As a secondee I feel like I’m on the same level as all the other trainees, which is great because it gives me the sense of being able to contribute just as much’.
Similarly, in Dublin, trainees are afforded high levels of responsibility from the get-go thanks to the close-knit teams. ‘Here I’m given an overview of the matter, what my tasks will be and I’m trusted to go away and complete them’, says Catherine. The people aren’t bad either: ‘everyone’s been really friendly and welcoming even though I’m only here for a short time. It’s been easy to get to know everyone quite quickly – I’ll be sorry to leave!’
If the professional experience isn’t enough of an enticement, the opportunity to get to know a new city might be. Rachael is making the most of living in London’s vibrant Smithfield area and finds plenty of time to explore the capital at weekends. ‘I’ve had a lot of visitors dying to come over; it’s amazing how quickly Christmas rushes in when all your weekends are full’! Catherine agrees: ‘my house is like a hotel at the moment’!
So has moving abroad for four months brought with it any challenges? ‘Nothing has caught me out’, says Catherine, ‘the only thing is that I’ve always lived with someone so living on my own was a bit of an adjustment’. Rachael has found the transition equally problem-free. ‘I didn’t know too many people in London but that really hasn’t been an issue at all here. I’ve made so many friends, be they trainees or other members of the team’.
Both are agreed that trainees should jump at the chance of undertaking an international secondment if they are offered the opportunity. To sum up: ‘I’ll take away a better sense of Dechert’, says Rachael. ‘Although it’s never lost on me that it’s an international firm, having now experienced more than one office, I’ve seen that culture of collaboration at work. I’ve seen how people can transition between different offices seamlessly because it is so international’.
Dechert’s London office recruits ten trainees a year exclusively through its vacation schemes. Applications for the spring and summer vacation schemes are open now and close on 31 January 2020. Click here to apply.