One of our trainee secondees Caitlin Allan 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?
I found out about the secondment a few days before the deadline when I received an email from the JLD. I have always been interested in EU law and I thought it sounded like an amazing opportunity. I was keen to hear about Brexit updates first hand and help monitor the effects on the legal profession. I also thought that the secondment would provide me with the opportunity to learn a variety of skills that would benefit me in my future career.
How did you get the support of your firm?
I found out about the secondment quite late so I only had a few days to apply. I therefore asked the managing partner directly. I felt that I had nothing to lose by asking and it was too good an opportunity to miss.
What did you do to prepare for the secondment, in terms of logistics and the job?
My biggest concern was finding a flat so I asked one of the previous trainees for advice about what websites to use. I found my flat on the appartager.be website and managed to view properties over Skype which was quite useful. In preparation for the job I looked over my Uni notes on EU law as it had been a while! We were provided with a trainee manual before we started which also gave a good idea of what the role would involve.
What skills do you think you have gained and developed over the last 6 months?
I think my legal research skills have greatly improved as I am constantly looking for updates from the EU institutions on public consultations, proposed directives etc. Another big part of the role involves writing articles for the Brussels Agenda newsletter which has helped enhance my writing skills. Trainees also present updates to EU Committee members which has given me the opportunity to work on public speaking.
What has been your highlight of working in the Brussels office?
I attended the Human Rights Committee meeting at CCBE in November. There was a special guest present who had helped save Georgian lawyers from persecution. It was really interesting to hear him speak and to be involved in planning future events and humanitarian projects. I was grateful to be a part of the meeting as have never had the chance to be involved in such important work previously.
What areas of work do you cover and how is the work divided up?
I work mostly on consumer law, access to justice and family law. I also have a particular interest in human rights and migration, and the policy adviser I work with has been really helpful in discussing these areas with me and including me in relevant meetings. The split of practice areas has worked out really well because all 3 of us are interested in different things. We are all encouraged to go to events and talks that interest us, so our practice areas often overlap.
What have you found to be the biggest challenge and how did you overcome that?
I am not keen on public speaking, however this is a skill that is required for the role. I have found that understanding the subject area well is essential before presenting a topic so I have carried out a lot of background research before presentations. The policy adviser I work with has also helped me prepare and run through topics with me which has improved my confidence.
What does your daily routine look like?
The trainees are responsible for sending out a daily monitoring email with relevant news updates, so we take this in turn every day. I also have to carry out research tasks and draft summaries for the policy advisers, as well as planning and writing articles for the Brussels Agenda. I attend a lot of events in Brussels so often write event reports afterwards. There are a lot of different events and talks happening all the time, especially in relation to Brexit. It is useful for the trainees to attend these and provide feedback for the policy advisers. It is also really interesting to speak to experts and hear updates first hand.
What value do you think this has added to your training contract?
This secondment has given me the opportunity to work on areas of law that particularly interest me. It is a very different role to my normal job and has opened my eyes to a new way of working. I have gained a lot of transferrable skills that will help me when I return to my firm. I have also had the chance to meet inspirational people and make invaluable contacts which will undoubtedly help me in my future career.