My Summer in the International Arbitration Department of a Large Law Firm in Paris

A rising 3L's summer experience in Paris.
August 26, 2015

This summer, I interned at the International Arbitration department of Shearman and Sterling LLP in Paris, France. I was fortunate to work in one of the biggest and most prominent practices on international arbitration. Shearman’s Paris office has at least 60 arbitration lawyers, in addition to arbitration lawyers who constantly work with the team from offices in New York, D.C., London, Frankfurt, and Abu Dhabi. It was a truly global team taking in some extraordinarily difficult yet extremely interesting commercial as well as investment-treaty cases.

Given the size of the department, there were between 25-30 interns in the international arbitration department to help with the immense caseload. Most interns work in one large office space, sharing some nocturnal adventures (surprise surprise!) with interns from the tax, project finance and corporate departments. Interns’ backgrounds are extremely diverse, such as from Colombia, Argentina, China, India, France and Italy to name a few. This makes sense given the nature of international arbitration, which spans different legal backgrounds. I had quite a lot of fun hanging out outside of the firm with some interns – went exploring Paris and going for drinks. Even after I left the firm at the end of the summer, we are still in contact! It was also very motivating to see how hardworking everyone else was, given that the hours could be notoriously long. For instance, I normally worked from 9:30am until 8:30pm. As typical of a big law firm, with incoming filing deadlines, you could work for at least 14 hours on a typical day. I was involved, along with a few other interns, in one of the biggest current commercial arbitration cases (the biggest award in history was successfully represented by Shearman’s Paris team also on behalf of shareholders in the Yukos case). Several times, I came home at dawn to sleep for 4 hours before heading back to the firm.

Concerning the substance of the work – I was involved in different kinds of tasks. Filing meant cite-checking and proofreading lots and lots of submission claims, for instance. It was interesting to see how lawyers managed under filing and time pressure. I also helped lawyers on research, most of which were quite difficult given their obscurity. It was also a part of the fun and appeal with this firm, that you had to research on a challenging subject not often discussed or has been thoroughly explored.

The firm has an amazing team of lawyers and interns. Most people were very friendly and interesting. Interns threw parties and drinks frequently in the office. Most lawyers were generally accessible for lunch and drinks and were happy to discuss about their work – though such opportunities definitely required interns’ self-initiatives.

I was simply very fortunate to have lived in Paris, which did live up to its expectations as one of the most beautiful cities. I was able to explore the city through my local Parisian friends and others I met abroad and manage to absorb a little bit of the French culture and language. This experience was sufficient (despite even the long hours) to make me want to move back next summer (or as soon as possible)!