Competitive instincts: a seat in Washington D.C.

Freshfields' Nick Ames experienced working in the political centre of the US before returning to London to qualify

Why does Freshfields have an office in Washington?

The office in Washington satisfies a demand from our clients for US regulatory advice and has a large antitrust, competition and trade team. This work is done in Washington because the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice, the main business regulatory bodies in the US, are based there. By being in the city, we're right at the heart of where the decisions are made, which is useful for our clients if things need to be done quickly.

How does the Washington office compare to the London office?

London is a very big office, while our Washington office probably has 50 people in total, including all of the support staff.

American lawyers go straight from law school to being an associate, so while I was in Washington I was seen as a junior associate rather than a trainee. I got my own office, and was interacting with partners and clients by myself.

What kind of work were you doing?

I had an excellent mix of corporate and dispute-related regulatory work. A big and exciting piece of corporate work I was involved in was the merger between Continental Airlines and United Airlines. We acted as the antitrust lawyers for Continental.

On the disputes side, I was involved in some cartel investigations, liaising and working with the Department of Justice.

What did you learn about being a lawyer in Washington that you wouldn't have learnt in London?

I've gained an appreciation of how our network operates. I've also seen how lawyers in a different country manage and deal with their clients.

Also, because the Washington office is smaller, I was able to observe how partners work on their client relationships more closely than I could in London.

Did you find anything about being abroad difficult?

I can imagine that some people might occasionally struggle with being away from home, or find it difficult to be in a culture which they're not familiar with. But I'd lived in America before and had spent a lot of time abroad, so I was extremely comfortable living and working in Washington.

I've never met anybody who hasn't had a good time on an overseas secondment.

What was the best thing about being in Washington?

I got to know some great people, and have kept in touch with a number of them, which has been fantastic on a personal level.

It's also been very helpful from a work perspective. For example, a group of associates in the Washington office are keen to get an understanding of the new Bribery Act we have here in the UK and how it relates to their equivalent US legislation. So I've put them in contact with the relevant people in the London office, and we've discussed how we can help our clients together on these issues.