All Holman Fenwick Willan trainees have the opportunity to spend a seat in one of the firm’s fourteen international offices, and the third seat of my training contract took me about as far away from London as geographically possible.
Back in September, I was seconded to the firm’s Melbourne office to sit in the Trade & Energy department for six months, arriving just in time for a Summer down under.
The office is smaller than London with around forty fee-earners based on the 41st floor of a large building in the city’s CBD, providing a rather more spectacular view of the city than the London office does on a wet winter’s day in Tower Hill.
Prior to arriving in Melbourne, I had been told that seats in the firm’s overseas offices were able to provide a trainee with increased responsibility and exposure to matters and this became evident straight away when dealing with key clients in commodity trading and transport. A smaller office meant that I was working directly with senior partners, often providing draft advice, hosting meetings or attending court hearings. I have been heavily involved in work regarding the 2009 Victorian bushfires class action which required, amongst other things, liaising regularly with counsel and preparations for a lengthy trial.
The nature of the work has been both challenging and interesting and as a new entrant into the Australian legal world, I have gained familiarity with a legal system that is a mix of federal and state tiered jurisdictions, supplemented by UK law.
The size of the office made it easy to approach other fee earners for advice and I received a good deal of support on my arrival and as well as throughout the seat. Of course, Friday night drinks and other firm events also facilitate this.
Living and getting around Melbourne could not be easier. I have stayed in the firm’s apartment located in the centre of town which is a fifteen minute walk to the office and, importantly, an even shorter walk to a the many restaurants and bars that flank the picturesque riverfront.
Weekends provide opportunities to head further afield. On occasions I have travelled West down the Ocean Road with friends or caught flights to the beaches along the country’s East coast where I have been able to show a complete lack of prowess in both surfing and tanning.
As a sports enthusiast, Melbourne serves up a feast of activity to occupy any spare time. The city hosts international events in cricket, rugby, tennis, horse racing (the state gets a day off for the Melbourne Cup), football, formula one, motorcycling, surfing, sailing and rowing, amongst others. In addition to this, Melbourne is the fanatical home of AFL and it was demanded that I pick a team to follow on arrival. Even in the office one is never far away from the next sporting debate.
In terms of my training, I believe I will return to London having benefited from forging new relationships within the firm and from developing my legal experience within a foreign jurisdiction. As for life outside of the office, at no point has there been a lack of things to do, in fact, owing to the outdoor, office and social life on offer the problem has been fitting it all into a six month period.