Hello readers and welcome back to my Trainee Diary Series!
I do apologise for not having been able to publish a blog about my time on secondment at the NatWest Group – it’s been a combination of things including workload and confidentiality restrictions! So I thought in this end-of-seat blog I would give you an overview of what I got up to on secondment now that some of my work is public, why it’s a good opportunity if your firm offers secondments and what I’ve gained from my time here at NatWest.
What I got up to at NatWest
I was based in the corporate mergers and acquisitions team at NatWest. I worked as part of the “business functions” meaning that I was part of a core team that conducted all the corporate legal workings of the NatWest Group. This involved working for the whole NatWest Group (head parent company), different subsidiaries and branches such as Royal Bank of Scotland and Coutts & Company.
I was involved in various transactions but due to confidentiality reasons I can only discuss the transactions that are publicly announced. One of the transactions that I was involved in was the transfer of NatWest’s Adam & Company (a private bank) to Coutts & Company (another of NatWest’s private banks). We did this using what is known as a “Part VII Business Transfer” under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. We put advertisements in The Gazette and you can find the link to The Edinburgh Gazette advertisement here – https://www.thegazette.co.uk/notice/4088785.
This process involved various parts such as:
- Reporting on client communication statistics
- Lodging documents such as accounts and approvals to the court
- Appointing a Court Reporter (who conducts research on the transfer, writes everything up in a report that either does or does not recommend the transfer)
- Attending court hearings
The final court hearing, which was held in May 2022 before Lord Clark in the Court of Session in Edinburgh, granted sanction (i.e. approval) of the scheme. This meant that NatWest now had the court’s permission to proceed with executing the business transfer. A business transfer like this has to come before the court for sanction for a few reasons; one of them is because the court has to be convinced that transferring the Adam business into the Coutts business would not have a detrimental impact on the two banks’ clients.
Other transactions that I’ve been involved in include acquisitions (NatWest buying), disposals (NatWest selling), and joint ventures. There are also various tasks that I got up to such as:
- Reviewing non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) – there are many different types of NDAs but one of my tasks would be to review the NDA and consider whether the obligations on NatWest are too onerous and whether NatWest’s protections are sufficient. It’s a balancing act between both parties!
- Liaising with the different NatWest teams and law firms
- Arranging and attending meetings and consultations
- Reviewing and drafting documents as well as arranging for signature of documents
- Reporting to seniors on current deals and transactions that the M&A team are working on
Why go on a secondment?
I think that if your firm offers the opportunity to do a client secondment during your Training Contract, it is a great opportunity to spend some time in a different environment and learn a different set of skills. When you join a client, you are learning about their business; how it functions as a whole, how it is run on a daily basis and how clients use law firms.
One of the key differences for me about working in-house at the NatWest Group was that there is no time-recording. At law firms, you have to time-record what you do during the day because that relates to how clients are billed for the legal services. However, my role at NatWest was to execute deals and transactions on behalf of the business so I didn’t have to time-record (because otherwise I’d be billing NatWest for the work I was doing for NatWest). This made things a little trickier in terms of estimating your level of capacity but it is a good way to enhance organisation and personal effectiveness skills.
Being on the client side also means that you gain a deeper level of understanding of the relationship between law firms and their clients. You learn about what clients like/don’t like their firms to be doing/not doing, how clients like to interact with law firms and what clients expect from law firms. It means that you understand how to keep clients happy and get repeat work from them.
What I’ve gained from secondment
I’ve listed out a few things that I’ve learned from my secondment that I know will stand me in good stead for future seats and my career but this is in no way exhaustive:
- Corporate and business skills – including learning about corporate governance procedures in a large bank and considerations of key commercials in transactions
- Increased responsibility – you are not always treated as a trainee solicitor on secondment (as not everyone knows you are a trainee solicitor) so it means you have the opportunity to take on more responsibility
- Client care – a secondment is a great opportunity to learn more about your firm’s clients and how you can keep them happy
I’m more than happy to discuss with anyone interested in secondments about the benefits of them!
Off on my next adventure
As my 6-month secondment comes to an end, another adventure awaits! I’m now based in the insurance and reinsurance litigation team in the Edinburgh office and I’m really excited to be back at CMS and learning about something completely new!
As always, I am more than happy to discuss with any of my readers about my time at CMS, NatWest or training contracts as a whole so please do get in touch!