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What it’s like to do a secondment with Goldman Sachs as a trainee solicitor

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By The Careers Team on

Berwin Leighton Paisner’s Pragesh Sivaguru tells Legal Cheek Careers about an “inspiring and encouraging” third seat of his training contract

Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) trainee Pragesh Sivaguru is loving every minute of his secondment to Goldman Sachs, one of world’s powerhouses in investment banking, securities and investment.

“I’ve been here for the first two months of my third seat, and already it’s been a brilliant experience,” says Sivaguru, who graduated with a BA in Law from Cambridge in 2014. “It’s what I expected, but more.”

Sivaguru’s secondment came about after meeting with BLP’s head of banking and the firm’s Goldman Sachs relationship partner for the secondment. “Having long been interested in and passionate about financial services, I asked to go there on what is a relatively new secondment,” explains Sivaguru. “We’re fortunate to have such good links with Goldman, and I was fortunate to be selected.”

Sivaguru, who gained a distinction in his LPC LLM from The University of Law, says the culture at Goldman “is and isn’t what I expected — it’s more friendly and team-orientated than I expected, but it’s every bit as professional, dedicated and driven for excellence as I thought it would be.” There’s a collaborative sensibility, too:

“Goldman people are great at sharing collective knowledge and insights — there are regular talks, events, and presentations to help all employees continue in their professional development and maintain the highest standards of work. It’s very collegiate.”

But if Goldman people “truly live by their business principles, taking real, tangible pride in their professionalism,” the result is not a cut-throat, survival of the fittest mentality, according to Sivaguru. Instead, he says “people really give everything and they’re incredibly engaged in their work. You stand shoulder to shoulder with them, making sure that the work is done to the highest standard, each and every time, but they’re respectful, inspiring and encouraging too.”

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That work, so far, has consisted of helping complete private client loans, updating terms and conditions of business and other product-related documentation, and dealing with regulatory queries. “The latter entails researching various areas from financial regulation, such as transaction reporting, to distilling jurisdictional surveys for lending into other regions and countries around the world,” says Sivaguru, whose first two seats, in Litigation/Financial Regulation and Corporate Tax, are already under his belt. There are also any number of ad hoc matters cropping up, “from drafting stages to post-closing, where amendments are proposed. It’s fast-paced and dynamic. The days are intense, perhaps more so than in a law firm, but usually shorter.”

In what other ways does life at Goldman Sachs differ from that at BLP?

“You feel closer to the front line,” says Sivaguru. “You’re immersed in the business and its needs. There are also more stakeholders, from the front office business, as the direct ‘client’ of the in-house legal team, to other support teams such as compliance, risk and credit, all alongside law firms, as external counsel, too. They all feed into making the transactions happen and help keep the wheels turning, ultimately benefitting Goldman’s clients.”

Sivaguru believes that going on secondment is a great way of enhancing a young lawyer’s commercial understanding. “You gain a broader appreciation of the internal cogs and mechanisms, getting a real feel for how clients tick,” he says. But that’s not all. “You’ll be pushed and pulled in all directions, regularly taken outside your comfort zone and asked to work to tight deadlines, all of which encourages growth. And a secondment helps build perspective generally, on broader careers and people’s career paths and trajectories. You become well-rounded, which is essential if you’re going to become a good lawyer.”

How, then, has Sivaguru’s perspective developed? Does he, for example, see himself working in-house one day?

“First and foremost, I’m concentrating on qualifying at BLP and staying with the firm,” says Sivaguru, who counts cricket and karate as pastimes outside the office. “There are great people here and I see the firm as home. BLP is driving a lot of change in diversity and inclusivity, something I feel very strongly about, and I want to continue being a part of the firm’s work in this space.”

And while Sivaguru is enjoying every moment of being at Goldman, he admits “I feel wedded to private practice. Maybe one day I might move in-house, but for now I want to consolidate my passion in financial services work. The blend of people, products, markets and law is fascinating; this is where I want to work. I’m sure that what I’m learning at Goldman will stand me in very good stead.”

According to the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-18, nearly a third of Berwin Leighton Paisner trainees had done a client secondment.

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