Ben Wild, trainee solicitor at Leathes Prior Solicitors, shares his impressions of his six-month secondment as a trainee solicitor at the Brussels Office
The impressive stone gate of Parc Cinquantennaire stands, warmed and steadfast, in the morning Bruxellois Sun. A fresh, bristling breeze buffets the soaring jet-streams of the park’s fountain. Someone forgets to clean up after their dog.
It is just edging towards spring here in the EU’s Belgian capital, and I’ve taken the scenic route from my Ixelles flat to the joint office of the UK Law Societies, which abuts the park. It is around 9am.
After greeting the staff in a variety of languages, none of which are necessary for a secondee but all of which are appreciated, I log in at my work station. It is hard to take my eyes off the landscape view from our office window, which leads to a terrace ledge that we are definitely never supposed to go and eat lunch on ever. So don’t do it. Although if you did, you would catch the Sun wonderfully and get a fine view of one of Europe’s most underrated cities.
It is a Thursday so the first task is compiling a document called the Forward Look, ahead of the meeting of the same name. Forward Look is where the staff members prepare for the week ahead: what meetings are coming up at the Institutions, what events are being organised by the political groups, and so on.
Next up, it is wise to make a start on the Daily Monitoring. As the name may suggest, this is a daily compilation of the news related to EU law and policy, which may be of interest to the Policy Advisors and the Head of Office - all of whom are assisted by the secondees.
Most of the morning is then spent on a detailed piece of research on the General Data Protection Regulation: what effects will it have on law firms and their clients? What practical steps should our members be taking to deal with these effects? As a secondee, you will conduct research on any of the office’s 28 policy areas from Criminal Justice, to International Trade, to Company Law and Intellectual Property (don’t worry though, you can specify which areas are of most interest to you or your firm).
Lunch will be kindly provided by the British Chamber of Commerce, whose event on the Digital Single Market I will be attending at midday. These kinds of events are a good chance to fire up the old networking skills, which usually involves me awkwardly thrusting a dog-eared business card into the hands of a Brussels bigwig… or some teenage PR intern from a lobbying firm, whatever.
Normally though, I cook in the floor’s kitchen with our colleagues from the various European Bars and share our views on Brexit and other issues of the day (article written before 24 June 2016 - Editor).
As we are nearing the end of the month, the afternoon will be devoted to finalising the office’s monthly publication on EU law and policy, the Brussels Agenda. The BA goes out to over 6,000 subscribers and is our flagship project. The secondees have the challenging but frankly rather fun task of being the editors and project managers for the publication. You also get to do a lot of writing, as well as trying to secure the kind of high-profile external contributors that our readership has come to expect (top judges, Commissioners, MEPs etc). Coming up with amusing and borderline controversial headlines for said articles is one of the highlights of my day.
Leaving the office a little before 6pm gives me a bit of time to get ready for a real Law Societies tradition - Thursday Drinks. The secondees are responsible for rallying as many of the trainee solicitors from UK firms in Brussels as they can, and taking them for a few (often far, far too many for a Thursday night) drinks. Whether it be the teeming young professionals haven of Place Luxembourg, the far too cool bars of Ixelles or the many hangouts of Brussels city centre, there will always be something for those that want to relax and have fun.
It is no exaggeration to say that taking this secondment was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my training contract so far - I urge you to apply!