What’s it like being on secondment?

Dominic Brown, an associate at Slaughter & May speaks about what it’s like to be LGBT and on secondment.

 

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I grew up in Jamaica and Malaysia, and although I was young at the time I still have many happy memories of those places.  I returned to England aged 10 and went to secondary school in suburban South London.  I studied Law at Queens’ College, Cambridge, which was as amazing as it was challenging.  I began to explore career options whilst I was at university, and was offered a training contract at Slaughter and May.  Before I started my training contract I spent 6 weeks in South Korea teaching English at a summer camp and travelling around the country, and a further 4 months travelling around South-East Asia.  I started my training contract with Slaughter and May in September 2014.

Are you involved with your firm’s LGBT network?

I became involved with PRISM, Slaughter and May’s LGBT network, shortly after starting my training contract.  PRISM was established in 2009, and there was a relaunch of the network in 2015.  PRISM’s mission is to empower members of the firm who identify as LGBT to achieve their full potential.  It offers a platform for LGBT staff and allies to network, focus on LGBT issues and build client relationships.

Why did you apply for a secondment?

I love travelling, and so the idea of living in another country for 6 months naturally appealed.  Spain was attractive due to its amazing food, culture and climate.  Uría Menéndez, the Spanish law firm I was seconded to, was happy to take me on despite my lack of Spanish-language ability, and the secondment was a great opportunity to learn.  A secondment is also a great career development opportunity, as you have a lot of networking opportunities and typically get treated as a qualified lawyer.

Would you recommend applying for a secondment?

I would definitely recommend applying for a secondment if you want  a change from London life.  Secondments are a great opportunity for career development for trainees, as you are treated more like a qualified solicitor and can experience more responsibility than as a trainee.  You also have the opportunity to experience a different culture and working environment.

Did you feel that you were able to be open about being LGBT?

I felt very comfortable being open about my sexuality in Uría Menéndez.  There was no formal LGBT  network in Uría Menéndez when I was there, but there were a group of people who were in the process of setting one up.  Regardless, Madrid is a great city for gay people, and Spain is an extremely progressive country.

What other differences did you find between the two firms?

Uría Menéndez is a market leading Spanish and Portuguese law firm, and is Slaughter and May’s “best friend” in Spain and Portugal.  In some ways they are both quite similar, as they deal with similar types of work and have similar types of clients.  I would say that Uría Menéndez is slightly more formal in some ways, for example men are expected to wear a tie in the office.  That said, at their office Christmas party they had Soraya, Spain’s 2009 Eurovision entrant and gay icon, performing!

Do you have any plans to stay in touch with people from your secondment?

Definitely.  I made some great friends while I was there and I am going back to Madrid this Summer for the Pride, where I will catch up with as many of them as I can.  In addition, Slaughter and May are hosting a development day soon for the LGBT Associates from our “best friends” firms, and hopefully I will see some friendly faces then.

Best travel tip for Spain?

I love Madrid, and I think that it is often unfairly overlooked because it is not next to the coast. It is a beautiful and vibrant city which has a lot to offer.  In many restaurants at lunch time they offer what is called a menu del dia, which usually consists of a starter, main course and choice of coffee or dessert.  These are usually great value, and keep you going until the typically late Spanish dinner time!

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