“Sorry, I can’t take anything else on today, I am moving to Brussels tomorrow” was a phrase I muttered about ten times on my last day in the office in London, and each time made me a little bit more aware of an entire bedroom waiting to be packed up into one extremely small-looking holdall, ready for my train the next morning… a few frantic hours of packing later, and I was ready to go.
Having spent three months as a paralegal in BLP’s EU, Competition & Trade department before I started my training contract, I had always wanted to spend my third seat in the Brussels team. During my time as a paralegal I had worked on the early stages of a major cartel case, so I was pleased to be returning to the department at a critical time in this same matter.
The office here is a small team made up of one partner, one associate director, two senior associates and an associate, supported by four wonderful office staff (who don’t mind you ringing them at 7am when you have a power cut in the flat and are too scared to go down into the cavernous cellar alone). BLP provide trainees with a flat, located in a lovely part of the city just 20 minutes’ walk to the office, and, for the cold and wet days, Brussels has a clean and efficient public transport system. The social scene in Brussels is very young and lively – there are loads of other trainees, and drinks every Thursday which are conveniently held in the square just two minutes from my office door. Having studied Law and French at University, being able to speak French has been really helpful to my time here (mainly because I can understand the support staff’s gossip) but as Brussels is such a cosmopolitan city, not speaking French doesn’t seem to cause any of my friends any trouble.
Being the only trainee here has given me the opportunity to get involved in a wide variety of matters. Aside from the cartel case, which requires me to liaise with our London office, most of my work is done with the team here in Brussels. I have worked on mergers, acting for both buyers and third party complainants, market investigations and state aid matters. The merger work has been particularly interesting and I have spent the last week looking into the requirements for “starting the clock” on OFT procedural issues in the UK.
Overall, my first couple of months have been great and I would highly recommend an overseas secondment to anyone who might be considering it. A high level of responsibility, working within an extremely close-knit team and living and working in the “capital of Europe” is a fantastic experience.