As a member of AXA XL’s Legal team for the past two and a half years (currently as a Trainee Solicitor, previously as a Paralegal), I have had the opportunity to take part in some really interesting projects, but my regular duties don’t normally require me to travel abroad much. So, when in early October 2018 my training principal suggested I response to the Law Society’s advertisement for a secondees to work in their Brussels office I eagerly agreed. After submitting my CV and going through a brief interview process, in late October I was offered a 3-month secondment starting 14 January 2019.
As readers of the Brussels Agenda will be aware, the Law Society of England and Wales has maintained an office in Brussels since 1990 and formed part of the joint permanent presence in Brussels since 1993, staffed by specialist policy advisors who are supported by Trainee Solicitors like myself on 3-6-month secondments.
Since starting my secondment (or “stage” as they call them in Brussels) a little over four weeks ago I have taken part in events at the European Parliament, met MEPs and Ministers and attended more think tanks and pressure groups than I was aware existed!
Attending a speech by Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham at a Brussels Think Tank
In terms of legal work, my main job as a secondee is to assist the permanent staff in their work, which as you might imagine is mostly Brexit-related at the moment! This encompasses writing case studies (e.g. how would tourists be affected by a no-deal Brexit?), legal research, attending seminars, taking minutes and even party planning. Secondees also act as event organisers, hosting weekly networking drinks for Trainee Solicitors seconded to the Brussels branches of UK law firms who, like us, are temporarily living and working in Brussels.
In addition, secondees are responsible for editing and partially writing the monthly Brussels Agenda (sign up here), including drafting topical news articles and legal analysis and also summarising relevant recent caselaw from the CJEU and Member State courts. The secondment has so far proved a great opportunity to improve both my academic/legal skills (drafting, research) and social skills (negotiation, interacting with many third party organisations) as well as helping to improving my French (still a work in progress admittedly!).
I’m most grateful to my firm, AXA XL (part of the AXA Group of companies) for allowing me to take up this opportunity and providing funding, and to my colleagues in the Legal team in particular for suggesting I apply and encouraging me those times I got cold feet. I would heartily recommend applying to any current or future Trainee Solicitor who is looking for an adventure and the opportunity to develop their legal skills in a new environment.
If you or someone in your firm is interested in becoming a Legal Secondee at the Law Societies’ joint Brussels office for 3-6 months, please contact Antonella Verde (Antonella.Verde@LawSociety.org.uk) for more information
Best wishes from Brussels
- Thomas Bilbrough is a Trainee Solicitor within AXA XL’s Legal team, currently working as a Legal Secondee at the Law Societies’ joint Brussels office .