Practice area: Litigation and dispute resolution
Secondment: New York
I was seconded to the litigation department of a leading US law firm in New York.
Defamation and extortion trial
During my time on secondment, I was fortunate enough to work on the trial teams of a number of cases that spanned from a multi-million dollar anti-trust jury trial in Florida to a defamation and extortion trial in New Jersey. Whilst an unusual case, the New Jersey trial was particularly interesting as it involved, amongst other things:
- An application for the permanent restraint of free (albeit defamatory) speech. Given the importance of the First Amendment in the US, this was a very difficult application indeed (but I am pleased to say we were successful).
- The week before the trial, the defendant distributing leaflets containing the very allegations that formed the basis of our client's case to hundreds of individuals and organisations throughout the US including the Secretary General of the UN, every member of the US Senate and even President Obama himself.
- The defendant having to be physically restrained from attacking our client in the court room and having an armed Sheriff stand behind him for the rest of his evidence.
Similarities/differences to Macfarlanes
Despite being larger than Macfarlanes, there were many striking similarities between the two firms. As at Macfarlanes, the firm I was seconded to teams up with leading independent firms around the world to work on international cases and deals. It also has a very similar ethos to Macfarlanes with a strong focus on quality, adding value and being trusted advisers to clients. Whilst there were some clear and other more nuanced differences, both the US and the UK operate the same common law system so legal principles and procedures were also similar.
There were also a number of differences. The least expected of which was the language. To illustrate this, one of the first pieces of work I was asked to do was to write a series of articles on the UK Bribery Act and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to send out to clients. This seemed straightforward and the partner was very complimentary about the articles. That was until he very politely pointed out that the articles would need to be translated. There followed one of the more unexpected experiences of my career to date - seeing my carefully crafted prose transposed into American English! Also being on the 25th floor of a skyscraper in midtown Manhattan was rather different than residing on the 3rd floor of our office in Norwich Street.
It was a great opportunity and a privilege to work for one of the leading US firms on some fantastic cases and to live and enjoy New York for nine months.
I learned an enormous amount about US law which is invaluable to my practice (which is predominantly cross-border and often involves the US). I made excellent business contacts in New York as well as forming some great friendships. Critically (and rather painfully), I also learned that the English language is rather more divided by the Atlantic than I had ever expected!
During my time on secondment, I was fortunate enough to work on the trial teams of a number of cases that spanned from a multi-million dollar anti-trust jury trial in Florida to a defamation and extortion trial in New Jersey.