Research: the firms that offer the most international secondments

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By Alex Aldridge on

…and the ones that offer the least


The chances of enjoying global glitz and glamour vary widely between large law firms, with over 80% of trainees spending time abroad at some, and others offering no international secondments at all.

The results — taken from Legal Cheek‘s survey of over 1,500 trainees and junior lawyers at leading UK firms — make for interesting reading. The firms offering the most international opportunities are not always the ones that you would expect, while some megafirms with offices all over the planet under-perform quite notably. Check out the full results table below.

Percentage of trainees and junior lawyers doing an international secondment or spending time abroad with the firm

White & Case 83%
Watson Farley & Williams 80%
Linklaters 64%
Herbert Smith Freehills 59%
Dechert 58%
Shearman & Sterling 55%
CMS Cameron McKenna 54%
Norton Rose Fulbright 48%
Clifford Chance 46%
Freshfields 42%
Allen & Overy 41%
Howard Kennedy 40%
Trowers & Hamlins 40%
DLA Piper 38%
Hogan Lovells 36%
Squire Patton Boggs 36%
Kirkland & Ellis 33%
Latham & Watkins 32%
Charles Russell Speechlys 29%
Baker & McKenzie 20%
Bird & Bird 20%
Clyde & Co 20%
Jones Day 20%
Simmons & Simmons 19%
Eversheds 18%
Slaughter and May 18%
Mayer Brown 17%*
Reed Smith 17%
Fieldfisher 15%
Travers Smith 15%
Hill Dickinson 14%
King & Wood Mallesons 14%*
Addleshaw Goddard 13%
Mishcon de Reya 13%
Weil Gotshal & Manges 13%
Pinsent Masons 12%*
Berwin Leighton Paisner 10%
Olswang 10%
Dentons 9%
Gowling WLG 8%
Macfarlanes 8%
Nabarro 8%
Shoosmiths 8%
Bristows 7%
Burges Salmon 7%*
RPC 5%*
Mills & Reeve 4%
Osborne Clarke 4%*
DWF 3%
TLT 3%
DAC Beachcroft 0%
K&L Gates 0%
Taylor Wessing 0%

*Firm prioritises client secondments, rather than international placements, at trainee level.

Alongside asking trainees and junior lawyers about the international opportunities they had enjoyed, we also requested more detail about their experiences — and received hundreds of comments in response.

Secondment destinations varied widely, but there were definitely some more common locations. Hong Kong, Dubai and Singapore are favourites, as are the major European capitals such as Paris, Brussels and Madrid in which many UK-based law firms have offices. The most prized locations were the more far flung places, with New York and Tokyo two cities that generate a lot of excitement among rookie lawyers. Weather was also deemed important — Moscow in winter and the Middle East in summer were highlighted as places to avoid.

Overall, most trainees love secondments, relishing the opportunity to enjoy some new air (and an often pretty fun ex-pat social life) in a very protected environment. From picking you up at the airport to finding you a place to live, firms do pretty much everything for their secondees. But there are some negatives too. For example, there’s widespread agreement that the quality of training you get during a trainee secondment tends to be of a lower standard than back in London. There were even some reports from secondees who felt that they were being neglected and sounded quite lonely.

From the perspective of the firms, several with average to lower scores told us that most trainees who wanted secondments were successful (although they couldn’t guarantee they got their pick of locations), while also emphasising that a lot of trainees actually don’t want to spend time abroad. Rookie lawyers in a relationship were, understandably, said to be generally most reluctant to spend six months (the standard length of time of a secondment) away from home. Finally, it’s worth emphasising that the above figures do not include UK client secondments, which tend to be prioritised by firms which place less emphasis on international experience.

Find out more about the top UK law firms in the Legal Cheek Most List and accompanying firm profiles and survey scorecards.