21 October 2016

By solicitor Peter Finney

I have been back at the firm for several months since having the amazing opportunity of undertaking a four month secondment at the Law Society's Brussels Office (predictably it feels like an age since I departed for Belgium).

It can feel like a bit of a whirlwind getting back into the swing of things after a secondment: I was told to expect this by colleagues who had been on secondment with clients of the firm. I set out below some tips based on my experience of a secondment and my return to Bristol afterwards.

1. Ask for a secondment

I applied for the Brussels secondment independently but with backing from the very supportive HR team at Burges Salmon. Remember: if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

2. Ask for the work you really want

The four months of my secondment flew by. I made sure I spoke up and asked to work on dossiers which really interested me, which meant I got the chance to be involved in international trade and capital markets and other areas I would otherwise not have experienced.

3. Be prepared for change

There are likely to be things which are very different from back at the firm, both culturally and in terms of working styles. One shouldn’t necessarily expect the slick secretarial services and excellent IT support to which we are accustomed at Burges Salmon.

4. Seek out opportunities

Being in Brussels for four months provided me with opportunities I would otherwise not have imagined possible, for example attending European Parliament and meeting MEPs, meeting with Commission officials, attending the European Council of Bars and Law Societies, and having lunch with judges at the ECJ in Luxembourg.

5. Talk about the firm

You are after all a paid ambassador! Be sure to talk to colleagues and contemporaries about the excellent services the firm can offer, wherever the secondment might be.

6. Get out and about

Secondment isn’t only about the work, it's also about network development and getting to know your colleagues. I'm pleased to say I made the most of my time in Brussels, including mingling at the Gibraltarian embassy, wine tasting at the Austrian permanent representation to the EU and meeting with Burges Salmon’s preferred firms in Brussels.

7. Make arrangements back home

I was luckily able to rely on the fabulous secretarial support at the firm for monitoring my inbox, arranging travel and expenses. This made life much easier and also helped my transition when returning to the firm.

8. Keep in touch

I found it helpful to have regular contact with HR and my supervising partner, as well as other Burges Salmon trainees. It's important to stay in the loop and make sure you know what's going on back at the firm! Make use of the support that is on offer.

All in all, I’d unreservedly recommend a secondment. Take the bull by the horns and make the most of it!

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My secondment at the Law Society's Brussels Office

I’d unreservedly recommend a secondment. Take the bull by the horns and make the most of it!
Peter Finney, Solicitor

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