For my Master’s degree at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, my final dissertation was about the so-called ‘Fortis case’, which was about to be settled through the biggest class settlement in European history. In 2008, Fortis bank had to be saved and partly nationalised by the Belgian, Dutch and Luxembourgish States, before being sold a few months later. Linklaters’ Brussels Dispute Resolution team was the counsel to Fortis during the restructuring and disputes that ensued with the shareholders. It was an amazing opportunity to see first-hand how the law in my books was applied in practice. So I asked my course tutor for help setting up an Academic Internship at Linklaters and shortly afterwards, I was fortunate enough to get my wish. In October 2012, I spent a month there working on the case.
Actually, I was able to work on several aspects of the Fortis case during my traineeship, including specific prospectus liability issues that had not been discussed by Belgian courts yet. It called for me to research within other jurisdictions – mainly France, the US and the UK – and get the help from our offices there. I was surprised that, even though I was only a student, lawyers from across the firm were responsive and helpful. It was also the first time that I fully realised what it meant to be an integrated law firm, able to get valuable help from a global network of lawyers and offices. I had the opportunity to fully benefit from the firm's international outlook a few years later, when I joined Linklaters' London international arbitration team for a one year secondment.
From the start, I felt like a proper part of the team. I attended practice group meetings and social activities, and I was assigned a tutor, a year-three Associate who was there to guide me during my first days. I’m pleased to say we’re now good friends. On top of this, the work atmosphere was great and the team was receptive to my humour!
I also worked directly under the supervision of the team’s Partners. I can still recall how stressed I was about presenting my research results at the end of my internship, to a Partner. She was the worldwide head of litigation and arbitration at Linklaters back then, so I was feeling the pressure! In the end, we talked for more than an hour in her office. She was really attentive and keen to get my views, despite my lack of experience. And she was interested in why I studied law and my career goals. Four years later, she’s still my mentor. She’s quite demanding but then that’s what you need in order to progress!