Building bridges

Building bridgesTransylvania; home to Dracula, the Cheeky Girls, Champions League new boys Cluj CFR and for one week in August – 32 trainees from Addleshaw Goddard (AG). I became part of the AG family back in September 2006 when I first accepted a training contract with the firm. Since that day I was in regular contact with the graduate team and have been invited to many events organised by the graduate team. But it was 9 August when I knew I was an official employee of the firm. This was the day when the new AG trainees were all introduced to each other at Luton Airport Hotel during a meal, the night before we were to fly to Cluj in Transylvania for our week long induction and for the AGs renowned CSR work.

We arrived in a scorching and blisteringly hot Cluj. Later we would find out that week was the hottest week in the Romanian year. We stayed in an impressive hotel in Cluj where we ate breakfast at around 7.30 before we would go on a coach journey to the building site.

Why, you may ask, would a team of post-graduates embark on a week of hard manual labour? There are two reasons for this: one is we all knew that that week would be rewarding. We were all excited that we would be working side-by-side with not just our future colleagues and peers, but with people who we would probably be good friends with for the rest of our working lives. I had heard that trainees at law firms share a special bond; going through the same seats and embarking upon the same issues. Going to Cluj was the perfect way to start that relationship. The atmosphere was fantastic on and off site for the entire week. There was great camaraderie between the trainees.

But the second and most important reason why we worked hard throughout those roasting days in Cluj was because of one man his name was Petrica, a married man with four very young children. This was the man who we would be building the house for. He and his family resided in the converted bathroom of his father-in-laws house, where they shared the building with four other families. Their home was just a small room, with a sink, a few cupboards and a cot in the centre of the room for their new baby. We all realised that this was it, there were no furniture or a separate side room; the family lived and slept in this room.

This was a constant reminder for us whilst we worked, and we did work hard in the gruelling weather. I think the phrase of working 110 per cent is often used quite zealously, but I think this was the first time my fellow trainees and I worked to this percentage. The jobs were made easier everyday as Petrica and the Habitat volunteers greeted us on site with wide beaming smiles. We shared plenty of conversations with them albeit only knowing a handful of phrases ranging from hello, yes, thank you and my successful conversation starter was Gheorghe Hagi which the locals would talk endlessly about with us. All of the conversations were accompanied by the traditional over-the-top hand movements.

On our first few days we did a variety of jobs and tasks, perhaps one of the most tiring was when we emptied three lorry loads of heavy, wet concrete for the foundations of the house. It was no easy task, the word backbreaking comes to mind now, but no-one complained and everyone wanted to take part. We also shovelled the concrete into a deep wall perimeter ditch for Petrica. We were later told by Petricas emotional wife, through our hard working translator, that the tasks we had done in those 5 days on site had saved Petrica 3 months of arduous labour.

We worked hard but we played even harder. We went out nearly everyday of that week; we were an active part of Clujs entertaining night life. A few of us were even invited to a VIP club event held for an international pharmaceutical conference by two Scandinavian members because of the impact us Brits made on Clujs social scene.

I have had so much to tell about the CSR trip because when you feel you have achieved something and made a difference to peoples lives you really want to tell people about it. I can say I was a part of this, more importantly I enjoyed it and would do it again. This is probably the best way to start a training contract, going to a hot country, working and enjoying yourself and being around like-minded people whilst doing it all in the infamous AG Way.