My client secondment in Vienna

CMS Cameron McKenna trainee Janine Kessel spent six months on client secondment at Erste Bank in Vienna
Law school and training contracts

Many City law firms offer trainees the opportunity to spend a few months overseas or at a client's office.

Here CMS trainee Janine Kessel talks about how she got to do both on a secondment to an Austrian bank, and how the experience has helped her in her legal career.

The view from inside

"Arriving was daunting because I wanted to make the right impression and not say the wrong thing. But at the same time, I soon realised the value I brought as a trainee from an external firm.

For example, if they wanted me to do research on a particular point of law, I might have access to more resources and knowledge than they had at the bank.

The secondment familiarised me with some of the central issues Erste Bank faces. The eurozone crisis was still an important matter at the bank and there were a lot of lectures while I was there about how it was affecting its business.

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Erste Bank also exposed me to a new way of working, because in a sense as an in-house lawyer you're your own client, working for your company and responding to its needs.

That allowed me to have greater responsibility and autonomy, and people at the bank genuinely wanted my input. Often, I'd get a phone call from account managers at the bank asking me to review things and I was able to do so independently, without getting anyone else involved. I was also able to join in on meetings and participate in conference calls.

One of the most exciting things I got to do was go to a contract negotiation in Paris. I was involved from the beginning of the transaction right through to this stage. I had to really know the documentation and was responsible for making sure that all the key points for Erste Bank were raised."

A valuable asset

"I think you learn the most when you're pushed the hardest. Before I went to Erste Bank, I had zero banking experience, so I was thrown in at the deep end. However being on client secondment gave me the opportunity to do things I wouldn't have otherwise been able to do as a trainee, so I had to say to myself that I would try my best and learn from the experience.

Doing that gave me a better understanding of how clients do things, which is extremely useful because, when it comes down to it, our job is to deal with clients.

Working at Erste Bank has given me the confidence to take on challenges and deal with complex documentation. The support of the people at Erste Bank was invaluable and they appreciated I was there to learn.

However they did expect me to have opinions and to be able to back them up because that's part of the service a firm like CMS aims to offer. Although it can seem daunting, it builds your skill set as a trainee lawyer.

Having a ball

"The best thing about being in Vienna was the ball season. The Austrian culture revolves around dancing and from a young age everyone in Vienna is taught how to waltz.

The season runs from January to March and anyone can get a ticket. The ball I attended was at Hofburg Palace and there were people of every age, all dressed in ball gowns and tuxedos doing the Viennese waltz!"

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