Career Envy: Trainee Solicitor, International Secondment in Hong Kong
2012-07-04 04:19 PMCareer Envy
Rather than trudging through the rainy streets of London on a miserable Thursday morning, Leo Kitchen is currently taking a leisurely ride on the Central-Mid-levels escalator as he makes his way to work in scorching Hong Kong. Halfway through his training contract at the international law firm Simmons & Simmons, he was given the opportunity to do an international secondment in the Pearl of the Orient. He jumped at the chance. Can you blame him?
Néih hóu from Hong Kong!
Tell us all about your international secondment…
I am based in Simmons & Simmons’ Hong Kong office. I sit in the Dispute Resolution Group. My supervisor has a varied practice and I spend most of my time working for him, so you never know what kind of dispute will come through the door. I also occasionally assist with employment matters, as this group is just down the corridor.
I am given a lot of responsibility to run matters on my own. The matters themselves vary from large, multi-party court cases, which have been going on for many years, to discreet letters of advice and compliance matters, which I am often entrusted to complete with minimal supervision, particularly at the first draft stage.
As a trainee there are the inevitable research tasks to get your teeth into, but these tend to hold more interest as the legal system in Hong Kong is subtly different to England.
Hong Kong has a reputation for being a work hard, play hard kind of place, and this is definitely reflected in my day-to-day routine. Generally I get into the office about 9am and get stuck in straight away. My supervisor is very good at getting me involved in a variety of work, so I am often on calls, in meetings or drafting correspondence to the client or the parties on the other side of disputes we are involved in.
Lunch is sacrosanct in Hong Kong, so I will usually have plans with a friend from inside or outside the office, and its not uncommon to take an hour or more off in the middle of the day. As a result, however, the afternoon tends to be longer and it is rare to leave before 7pm, even if it’s quiet. After leaving work, I go and enjoy Hong Kong.
As a secondee, life tends to be very busy. Nowhere is this more true than in Hong Kong. The weeks tend to be filled with dinners and drinks in the evening, trips to the races, or wandering around Hong Kong’s many shops.
Weekends are a different story, with everything from dragon-boat training to trips around Asia to tempt you. There are lots of trainees from all the London firms out in Hong Kong, which means you’re never short of a companion for pretty much anything you want to try your hand at.
What did you do before you were sent on your international secondment?
I had a really boring life. No, not really! I was a first-seat trainee in the Capital Markets Group at Simmons & Simmons in London.
What is the best part of your international secondment?
Being in an amazing city for long enough to get used to it and make it feel like home, but for short enough that you take every opportunity—professional or personal—that is thrown at you.
What is the worst part of your international secondment?
I sometimes feel a bit isolated from the London office, and considering that’s where I will be qualifying that can be unnerving sometimes. Aside from that, occasionally I miss friends and family at home, but generally there are no bad parts!
What has been the best moment of your international secondment so far?
At work, the best moment has probably been attending a mediation relating to a dispute that has been going on for over ten years and has been very bitterly fought. It was great to see the personal side of the dispute; you could really feel the tension in the room!
Not only that, but I spent the whole day with our clients and, as I have been managing the case since arriving in Hong Kong, I felt like a valued member of their advisory team.
Outside of work there have been countless memorable moments, but I think the highlight has to be the weekend I spent in Shanghai.
Which career do you envy the most?
I used to think I would like to be a sportsman or a musician, but I think, being more realistic, authors and actors seem to have pretty nice lives. Being a lawyer is OK for now, though!
To find out more about training contracts at Simmons & Simmons, check out their graduate careers website: www.simmons-simmons.com/graduates