Harriet Diplock, Burges Salmon

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One of our trainee secondees Harriet Diplock answers some questions about how she secured the secondment and her experiences in Brussels over the past few months.

Why did you decide to apply for the Brussels secondment?

The secondment in Brussels was a much-talked about opportunity at my firm as several previous trainees had been lucky enough to be granted the opportunity to be seconded to the Law Society. I had considered my qualification options and felt comfortable that I would return to my firm for the 5th of my 6th seat training contract having gained a more European perspective and greater knowledge of how EU law applied to the firm’s clients.

How did you get the support of your firm?

My firm alerted the trainees to the advertisement and encouraged us to consider applying for the secondment. The firm were keen to give one of us an opportunity to work abroad, to be exposed to the workings of the legislative process and to build networks with other trainees outside of the firm. I’ve been really lucky that my firm see the opportunity as an investment in the training of their solicitors.

What did you do to prepare for the secondment, in terms of logistics and the job?

The Law Society were really helpful and put me in touch with other trainees who would be working in the office at the same time as me. I was also contacted by the incumbent trainees. My future colleagues were very supportive and gave me recommendations of where to stay etc.

I made the decision to visit Brussels for a weekend to orientate myself and work out which area I would prefer to live in, carry out flat viewings, find out what my commute (a 15 minute walk) would be like and to start my quest for my favourite waffle place! I’d really recommend visiting Brussels in advance, it meant that I was able to secure a flat that I was happy with and could ‘hit the ground running’ when I arrived for my secondment.

What has been your highlight of working in the Brussels office?

The highlight for me has been working with the Law Society policy advisers and meeting with other influential lawyers – I have learnt an incredible amount from the advisers and it is really inspirational to see how I could shape my career and focus on the areas of law that particularly interest me. The advisers are incredibly knowledgeable and approachable – I never thought that I’d be sat in a meeting with two people debating how best to approach a paper to be circulated in the House of Lords!

I have thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to attend events and listen to Commissioners, diplomats and academics discuss the key topics affecting European citizens. My favourite event was to attend a talk given by Martin Wolf, the chief economics commentator for the Financial Times, it was awe-inspiring to listen to someone who had had such an illustrious career and who had such a handle on how global economics and politics are shaping the world that we live in.

What value do you think this has added to your training contract?

Being seconded to the Law Society has given me a really good insight into how the legal sector operates and the ways in which it might develop. The opportunity to understand how EU law works in practice and the way that political decisions affect the lives of European citizens has been priceless. I know that my firm has valued the insights that I have been able to relay back and it has enabled me to have discussions with partners and to build my profile within the firm.

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