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As a trainee solicitor at Baker & McKenzie, I was incredibly lucky to have my application accepted for a three month secondment to the tax department of our Palo Alto office.
From San Francisco down to San Jose, the west coast of the Bay Area is packed with everything from small but highly innovative start ups to the tech giants that have changed the world in the last decade.
I lived in San Francisco and reverse commuted to Palo Alto. On the train, I would meet PhD students from Stanford University researching at the forefront of their field, business analysts and executives preparing presentations for their companies or shareholders, and lots and lots and lots of programmers for Apple, Google and Facebook. There was never a dull conversation.
The lawyers in our Palo Alto office are impressive to say the least. It is a given that they have all attended top American universities and passed the California bar (supposedly the hardest of all 50 states). However, in their field of expertise, not only do they know and interpret the US tax code on a daily basis, they understand how foreign taxes will affect their clients’ multinational corporate structures.
I managed to get a mix of UK and US law work while I was there. I presented on UK tax developments to the tax department at their weekly tax update meetings and did research on US points of law which gave me an appreciation of just how complex the US tax code is.
I made the most of my time outside work too. San Francisco is an amazingly vibrant city that mixes American entrepreneurialism with European café culture, so great restaurants are around every corner serving everything from revamped classics (eg Mac’n’cheese made with three fancy cheeses) to inventive fusion food (eg Korean food in a burrito) and with Napa and Sonoma close by, good wine is always available. I also made the most of my weekends visiting anything within driving distance such as Big Sur, Yosemite, and Lake Tahoe - California is renowned for its natural beauty and did not fail to deliver.
My secondment to Palo Alto was an amazing experience both personally and professionally. I could not have learned so much without it or created such a great network of colleagues with whom to start my career in corporate tax law.