Exploring new horizons

What to gain from an international secondment - Kamya Gopal, Dubai

Kamya is a third-seat trainee, having undertaken an international secondment in the Dubai office with the Dispute Resolution, Regulation & Investigations team in March 2022.

One of the things that drew Kamya to the firm was the international secondment opportunities, the chance to broaden your experiences, learn about different working cultures, and build relationships across the firm’s global footprint. But upping and leaving your life can be a daunting experience, even if it’s something you’ve been looking forward to. “Honestly, I think it was a bit terrifying at first. The night before it just dawned on me the extent of it all. I'm moving to a new country, with people I barely know. Here is my life in these five suitcases. It’s happening and it’s happening now”.

Those initial nerves quickly subsided, as Kamya settled into her six-month secondment with the disputes team in Dubai. Soon she saw in real-time the benefits of taking that leap and what that would mean for her and her growth as a lawyer.

“I found that, because it's a smaller team, you get a lot more responsibility as a trainee. Quite often it is just you, an associate, and a partner working on a matter, which means that your work is going directly up to a partner for review. For the first few weeks, I thought ‘oh, that’s a lot of responsibility, how am I going to handle it?’ but being given that opportunity, I actually found that my confidence grew leaps and bounds.”

Kamya Gopal, Trainee Solicitor, London

Kamya highlights the importance of taking any opportunity with both hands and running with it, especially given international secondments are for a six month period only. “I wanted a challenge, I wanted to get everything I could from this opportunity and I found that having that in depth and often one-on-one time with the partners, meant that I have really developed during my time there. With skills such as drafting; how to build a good argument; reviewing evidence quickly; and attending, participating and leading client meetings; I feel really well equipped to go on to the next step in my career.”

But it wasn’t all legal drafting and evidence review, working so closely with clients directly gave Kamya an insight into the business and commercial issues that keep them up at night and she soon found that “the fun thing about being a lawyer is not just answering the kind of black letter law, but thinking about the clients commercial objective and being able to contribute towards that”. Getting that ‘bigger picture’ view helped Kamya to develop essential commercial awareness. “You need to be thinking ‘what's going on in the news? How can that affect the work we do?’, but to be a fully-rounded lawyer, you also need to look at it from the clients perspective – how does that affect them? How does it affect their industry? What problems arise for them that we can help navigate?”

Outside of clients and legal skills, there is the day-to-day of being a trainee at a global law firm, from seat rotations and applications, to hybrid working and getting a feel of the culture at the firm. Similar to her approach to international secondments, Kamya was keen to take every opportunity that came her way and joined the Next Generation Board. The Board is composed of 16 members from across EMEA, comprising of lawyers and business services, with the purpose to influence and inform the EMEA Management Committee’s priorities and initiatives, and to share ideas as to how to improve the firm and drive collaboration. This covers a wide range of topics, whether that be the timing of when seat rotations are announced, or the adaptation to remote and hybrid working, “there is that real desire across the firm to say ‘how can we improve the trainee experience?’. That culture of caring runs all the way to the top of the firm and throughout”.

Looking to the future and the next generation of lawyers, Kamya’s advice is to “be open minded and receptive to feedback. Share your thought process on how and why you got to that conclusion and know that there is nothing wrong with being wrong, it only gives you an opportunity to learn – that’s exactly what your training contract is for.”