Postcard from Paris

This is the first in what will be a short series of postings from our trainees who have spent  time working away from their home office either in an international office or on secondment with a client.  In this edition Caroline Hearn sends home a postcard from Paris.

On a warm July afternoon I got a call from Graduate Recruitment to say that I was going to be spending three months of my third seat in Paris.  My initial reaction was a very loud exclamation of “thank you”.  However, after putting down the receiver it soon dawned on me the reality of the situation.

I was going to be working in Pinsent Masons’ alliance firm Salans’ Paris office in their International Arbitration group, which meant I would be out of my Pinsent Masons comfort zone.  I was also the first trainee to be sent there so I felt a huge amount of responsibility to do well.

Before I continue you should know that:

  1. I do not speak French (a competent B at GCSE was all I had to fall back on); and
  2. I have never studied, or worked in, International Arbitration.

I was therefore naturally concerned that I would not be able to meet expectations!

Les environs de Paris

The first thing to sort out was accommodation.  I chose a lovely one-bed apartment near Republique which was paid for by the firm.  I then started to read any, and every, article on International Investment Treaty Arbitration I could find, as I knew that Salans’ were experts in this field.

Salans is set in the “Mayfair” of Paris.  It is round the corner from Place de la Concorde and the Champs Elysees.  On exiting the nearest metro station, Place de Madeleine, you see shop signs saying “Chanel”, “Dior”, “Gucci” etc…

My first week was spent learning the ropes at Salans.  As a third seater I had always felt confident that I knew my way around an office.  However, Salans has different administrative procedures that I needed to learn.  This included a two day IT training session in French!

However, on arriving in the department my lack of French fears were allayed as most of the team were either American or completely fluent in English, and all the work was carried out in English.

The work I did at Salans allowed me to develop as a lawyer and learn key skills.  I did an extensive amount of research on Investment Treaty arbitration for a mock arbitration.  I helped draft written submissions for an ICC arbitration, and I contributed to academic articles.  As the only English lawyer I was asked to research queries on areas of English law.  This also helped develop the relationship between Pinsent Masons and Salans as I sought specialist Pinsent Masons’ advice where necessary and therefore acted as an integral link.  By the end of the experience I had hugely expanded my knowledge of international law.

It was definitely not all work and I became part of a social circle inside and outside of work.  I also indulged in the culture of Paris and have made some amazing friends who I am visiting again in February!  I am therefore really grateful for the fantastic opportunity and responsibility that Pinsent Masons gave me.

Au revoir, a bientot mes amis.