I am almost a month into my Antitrust seat in Brussels, and can say without a doubt that this is a fantastic experience.
I am the first trainee from the London office to spend a seat here, so the whole move over was a completely new experience for me and for the office. Luckily during my previous seat in project development & finance, I had the opportunity to visit Brussels and our office here a few times because of the work I was doing with clients, so I knew a bit about what I was coming into.
Brussels is a wonderful place to live: it seems to have the best of both worlds in that it retains a small(er) city vibe with a high quality of life (you walk everywhere, can enjoy little street markets and are friends with the baker) while being extremely cosmopolitan because of the international scene. In restaurants, on the streets and in the office you hear a huge variety of languages and accents, which creates a very welcoming environment for newcomers as well as making it easy to meet, and develop relationships with, people working in related fields.
There are many law firms with offices here, so it has been easy to meet people and settle into a good social and professional life. It also helps that the food is outstanding – which helps everyone to settle in quickly!
Life as a trainee in Brussels is different from London. As the only UK track trainee in the office, I am entrusted with a great deal, despite this being my first exposure to an advisory seat (previously I had worked in global finance and project development & finance). What has surprised me most so far is how law is only one element of the work we do. A huge amount is influenced by economics and politics, which means that you need a good understanding of the clients’ businesses and markets, as well as of the regulatory environment and trends in policy.
The main areas of work in the Brussels office relate to merger control, monopolies, cartels and State aid so I’m getting to see the different aspects of competition law. You inevitably work closely with the European Commission, and in particular the Competition Directorate General which regulates and investigates competition issues. I haven’t had to work with bodies like this before, so it has been a real eye opener for me.
Being able to work in Brussels for this seat is fantastic – I get to witness the heart of EU law happening right in front of me, while living in a new city and experiencing a new culture. I’d recommend it to anyone who gets the chance.