Research: The firms that offer the most international secondments 2017-18

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As part of this year’s Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey, we asked over 2,000 trainees and junior lawyers at the leading UK firms about the opportunities they’d had to spend time abroad on the job.

The results — which we’ve broken down by firm, to give wannabe lawyers a general picture of what they can expect — varied widely, with some outfits sending all rookies overseas while others keep them in the nest for the duration of their training.

It’s worth noting that fewer international opportunities at trainee level doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing at the qualified solicitor stage. Just as some firms view secondments abroad as an important part of developing a global mindset, there is a school of thought which sees them as an unnecessary distraction from the training process. Indeed, on occasion secondments are restricted to associates of several years post-qualification experience. With that in mind here are the results.

Watson Farley & Williams 100%
White & Case 100%
Allen & Overy 79%
Clifford Chance 68%
Shearman & Sterling 68%
Baker McKenzie 53%
Herbert Smith Freehills 49%
Dechert 48%
Stephenson Harwood 47%
Linklaters 41%
Norton Rose Fulbright 41%
Freshfields 40%
Jones Day 38%
Trowers & Hamlins 36%
Fieldfisher 35%
Withers 33%
Clyde & Co 32%
DLA Piper 30%
Berwin Leighton Paisner 29%
Dentons 29%
Hogan Lovells 27%
Slaughter and May 27%
Ashurst 26%
Reed Smith 26%
CMS 25%
Forsters 25%
Ince & Co 25%
Hill Dickinson 24%
PwC 24%
Ropes & Gray 24%
Mayer Brown 21%
Kirkland & Ellis 20%
Squire Patton Boggs 20%
Bird & Bird 18%
Bristows 18%
Eversheds Sutherland 16%
Gowling WLG 15%
Latham & Watkins 14%
Charles Russell Speechlys 12%
Simmons & Simmons 12%
Pinsent Masons 11%
Burges Salmon 9%
Howard Kennedy 9%
Weil Gotshal & Manges 8%
Addleshaw Goddard 7%
Macfarlanes 6%
Mishcon De Reya 6%
RPC 6%
Travers Smith 6%
Taylor Wessing 5%
Bond Dickinson 4%
Mills & Reeve 4%
Browne Jacobson 0%
DAC Beachcroft 0%
DWF 0%
Irwin Mitchell 0%
K&L Gates 0%
Osborne Clarke 0%
Shoosmiths 0%
TLT 0%
Walker Morris 0%

As part of our survey we also asked the trainees and junior lawyers about where they had been lucky enough to go — and received hundreds of comments in response. The Far East, particularly Hong Kong and Singapore, is among the most common destination, although as firms expand their networks to Australia increasingly rookies are getting the chance to spend time in Sydney as well.

The Middle East is also big, with Dubai and Bahrain favourite locations; as is Europe, with UK trainees regularly heading to the continent’s big capital cities, with secondees often speaking local languages. The US is another hotspot, with the prime location this year deemed to be San Francisco, where a host of lucky trainees have done tech-focused seats. New York is another common place to spend time, particularly for those training at the London offices of US firms.

Rarer are placements in South America, Central Asia and Africa, where most firms have less well developed networks. A word of warning: consider what time of year you’ll be doing your secondment, because some places can get very hot (and cold).

Finally, look out next week for our client secondment results, a category which we have gathered data on for the first time this year.

For all the key information about firms, including what they pay and their full results in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey, check out The Firms Most List.

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Ah the lure of international travel…such a draw to students, such a drag when you’re a second seat trainee in a long term relationship with nice flat in London and you find yourself sent to Bahrain for six months.


This is so true. My firm forces all of its trainees to go for at least one secondment abroad. People generally did not want to do this precisely for the reasons you’ve mentioned.

But in reality, what can you do?


Surely they cannot force you to go?


Trainees will do anything. Desperate little slugs.


You’re just jealous cos we’re better than you.


Screw that. Take the long work-vacation and find a side bird abroad. If your London chick is a keeper, she’ll be waiting for you when you get back.


Maybe you shouldn’t be in a long term relationship then cuck


I agree with this. It is best to go out on international secondment single. That way you can get with lots of nice locals and really experience the local culture. Foreign girls usually love British guys.


Why do legal cheek fail to acknowledge the existence of certain firms?


Because their cheques bounce.


Which firms? Discuss.


Legal Cheek have no information about the big US firms- Kirkland, Cleary, Covington, Sidley etc.

s.32 Salmon Act 1986

Lol. I am not normally one to defend LC, but this is such a silly comment. At the very least, do a word search on this page for the firms you say aren’t mentioned. Oh, look. There’s Kirkland right there, with a 20% score.

Also, if you’re going to argue that big U.S. firms aren’t represented, you should probably also have checked for the largest U.S. firm in London. Oh, look. White & Case and its almost 400 London lawyers are at #2 on the list.

Sidley and Cleary aren’t on this list, but LC has profiled them here:
Perhaps they didn’t make this particular list because they didn’t offer any international secondments this year, or didn’t give LC the data…

To be fair, I have no idea what the deal is with Covington.


This only really tells you the percentage of trainees who actually went on international secondment.

The really interesting statistics are:
-Who applied to go on an international secondment but didn’t get to go; and
-Who went on an international secondment to a place they didn’t want to go.

Remember that the places trainees want to go are often the places that don’t need trainees. If you need paper pushers in a crappy Middle Eastern or Central Asian backwater, you don’t send associates, because they’re able to (and so likely to) quit and are expensive to replace. Trainees, on the other hand, are stuck at the firm for the whole two years (as it’s very difficult to defect to another firm mid-training contract and in practice virtually unheard of in the City).

I remember when I was a trainee, we were berated in a mass email from the partner in charge of us because no one wanted to sign up to go to Abu Dhabi (a literal, cultural and economic desert). The firm often had to offer sweeteners like first dibs on the following seat to get people to volunteer.


I applied to go on secondment to the Rio de Janeiro office. I went on secondment to the Rio de Janeiro office. It was superb.


That is the best international secondment in law, congratulations.


It is an odd statistic. At the firm I am a trainee at which has a low(ish) percentage above, everyone in the London office is offered the opportunity, and then it is given to the regions. When uptake is low, some trainees do two seats abroad…. That isn’t reflected either…..


What firm?


The statistic here for my firm is blatantly wrong. Seems to claim less than half of trainees get sent on an international secondment when in fact it is closer to 70%.


Which firm?


it’s almost bang on for my firm (RS). The only quibble I have is with that they seem to have assume all firms operate in areas where international secondments are likely/possible. If you’re in a family law heavy firm, you’re probably not going anywhere. Ditto for a real estate heavy or criminal heavy firm. But if your firm is big in energy and projects or shipping then you’re almost certain to have a Greek, Dutch, Mid-East or Far East secondment. If it’s big in EU law then you’re almost certain to have an EU seat


My firm allowed me out of my work-pit the other day to an adjoining one to help clean out the entrails of a colleague who died of overwork. I’m supposed to call that an international secondment, if the SRA asks.


Love your neighbour. Make love to your neighbour. Film it and put it on the telly during Christmas Day.


That is a bit naughty, you little devil!


If your woman can’t stay loyal while you’re on an international secondment it means you ain’t laying the pipe right, homie.

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