What’s it like being on secondment? Mark Spiller, Trainee Solicitor at Slaughter & May

As part of Slaughter and May’s international strategy, the firm maintains a very close relationship with a range of law firms across Europe and further afield, the “best friend” firms. In 2017 I took up the chance to spend six months in Madrid with our Spanish best friend firm, Uria Menendez. Being a big fan of travelling and exploring new places, cultures and cuisines, I was very excited to experience working life outside of London. I was also looking forward to travelling across Spain: indeed, most weekends I found myself in a new corner of the country!

Whilst I was based in Uria’s finance department, in reality, as one of only a handful of English lawyers based at the firm, I undertook an array of projects spanning corporate, debt capital markets, and employment, among others. This was an excellent opportunity to foster an international professional network, as well as advance my understanding of transactions operating in unfamiliar jurisdictions. Whilst the culture was very different to London with start and end times much later (and obligatory two hour lunches!), I was surprised by how similar the office environment at Uria was to Slaughter and May. What was remarkably different from earlier in my career, and an experience common to many secondees regardless of jurisdiction, was that I was responsible for much more significant parts of transactions and the Spanish law team were very dependent on me pulling my weight; something which was a great learning opportunity and which I relished and enjoyed greatly.

Given the majority of our clients and transactions at Slaughter and May have a fundamental international dimension, my relationship with Spain and Uria continues, as I regularly visit for work (and sometimes pleasure, too!). This has also been a great way to stay in touch with the close friends and colleagues from my time there.

Since starting my career at Slaughter and May, I have been actively involved in the LGBT committee, PRISM. Whilst I was at Uria, the firm was very keen to involve me in its own LGBT network, which was a great way to get to know people at the firm, as well as to contribute to their initiatives from PRISM’s previous experiences. Fortunately, Madrid, and Spain as a whole, is a very progressive and inclusive place, and at no point did I feel uncomfortable to be open about my sexuality either socially or at work. PRISM continues to maintain very close ties with the reciprocal LGBT networks at the European best friend firms. I am hoping to see a number of friends from Uria at the annual European best friends LGBT symposium, held this summer in Berlin, where the networks will collaborate to share best practice in promoting inclusive working environments.

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