Good times: a seat in Sydney

Slaughter and May's Matthew Carman spent a sunny six months at a leading Sydney firm, qualifying on his return to London

Why does Slaughter and May work with a firm in Sydney?

The Australian economy is booming, and many of our clients have Australian interests and connections, so we need to work with Australian lawyers. We have "best friends" relationships with firms all over the world and a long-standing one with the Australian firm I went to - there were several senior lawyers there who'd worked at Slaughter and May in the past.

How does the office in Sydney compare to Slaughter and May's London office?

The work is very similar to that in the UK. But unlike trainees in London who share an office with their supervisor, all the junior lawyers get their own office - mine came with a view of Sydney Harbour! It means that you work for a range of people, rather than closely working with a supervisor on all their deals as you might do in London. I enjoyed having more responsibility for my own workload, and I think it helped me with the transition to being a qualified lawyer.

The office was smaller than Slaughter and May's London office, which meant that the entire office socialised together more often. We had Friday night drinks at the end of every month, and also had office-wide barbecues for everyone and their partners.

What kind of work were you doing?

I sat in the banking and finance department. I did a fairly broad mix of financing work, including a large restructuring, several loans, and a bond issue. I also got involved in a securitisation, which I hadn't ever done before.

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

I became more aware of time zones. Many City lawyers don't realise the advantage they have in being at the geographical centre of the business world, and don't think about how best to organise their work with lawyers who are further afield. For example, if you send urgent work to Australia from the UK in the evening, that's morning in Australia and lawyers in Sydney can have the work ready by the time you get into the office the next day. But if you wait until the morning to send your email, you'll annoy your Australian colleagues as they'll have to stay until 3am to get it done!

Did you find anything about being abroad difficult?

My girlfriend came to Australia with me, so I never felt lonely. But I would say that if you're going on secondment to Australia by yourself, you need to be outgoing. There are opportunities to meet people, but there isn't a ready-made trainee social network in the same way that there is in New York or Hong Kong. But I enjoyed forming good friendships with people that I might not have met had I spent all my time with other British trainees.

What was the best thing about being in Sydney?

The weather and the lifestyle, as well as the interesting and challenging work I was given. New Year's Eve in Sydney followed by watching England retain the Ashes was a particularly good week!