Saturday 8 September 2012 was the day that I started my French adventure, a six month secondment to the employment team in Eversheds Paris office.
A secondment to one of our international offices was something I had wanted to do from the moment I received my training contract. I really wanted to experience firsthand how our international network of offices operated, in particular how they interacted with our UK offices, and to be involved in international work from outside the UK. I also thought that after having worked in Cardiff for a number of years it was the perfect opportunity to live and work in another country, and to build up a bit of hiraeth [ed’s note hiraeth means longing for Wales].
My wife and I arrived in Paris at about lunch time on that Saturday, entering into the scorching heat of a late summers day. Unfortunately the high temperatures were not to be repeated throughout the rest of the secondment.
Upon arriving at the office on my first day I was introduced to my new colleagues. The employment team in the Paris office is a lot smaller than the team in Cardiff and everyone was very welcoming. Thankfully their English was a lot better than my French. I have been used to working in an open plan environment, so sharing a small room with one other person has been a change for me. However there is very much an open door policy in the Paris office making people very approachable if you require any help or guidance.
I soon found out that the employment team in Paris undertakes a variety of interesting and challenging work. The team acts for a variety of clients ranging from French businesses to large US or UK based companies with subsidiaries, branches or overseas workers situated in France. I have been given lots of opportunities to be involved in drafting legal documents and communications with clients and third parties. I have also been able to liaise with our international offices and to be a first point of contact for them.
In addition the team does quite a lot of work with the corporate practice in the Paris office. I have been involved in a number of these projects, which has given me the opportunity to see how the corporate team in Paris operates.
Paris itself is a fantastic city. I have tried to make the most out of living here for six months, but there are so many things to see that I think that by the end of my time here I will have barely scratched the surface. I still have not managed to visit the Louvre yet, but I must before I leave. As with any major capital city Paris can be quite expensive, as a fellow trainee found out when he ordered a 16€ beer, but you soon work out where the more affordable places are.
The apartment I am living in is in a quiet area of the 16th arrondissement and the apartment is only 25 minutes walk from the Eiffel tower. Thankfully wherever you are in Paris you are never far away from fantastic restaurants, bakers and butchers.
It has been a fantastic experience living and working in Paris. I have met some great people and made some very useful contacts which will hopefully benefit the firm and myself. It is clear that it is very important for our Paris-based lawyers to build personal relationships with our UK-based lawyers and vice versa. It helps to build an element of trust between us for when we are referring work to or working with another office.
As many of the clients of our Paris office are not based in France it is very important to have a good personal relationship with the client and to put sufficient time into doing this, especially considering that there are often cultural differences.
However some things do not differ across borders. My time in Paris has shown me that wherever you are based the expectations of clients are the same. You are expected to give, and need to provide, legally astute, succinct commercial advice.