updated on 06 July 2021
I joined Devonshires as a paralegal towards the end of 2018 from Cripps Pemberton Greenish and have been working in the firm’s real estate and projects team, mainly on the development side specialising in social housing for registered providers and private developers. In this article I will share my experience as a secondee, highlight the importance of secondments in building a career and offer my advice on how to make the most of your secondee experience.
How it started
A2Dominion and Devonshires have a long-standing relationship. A2Dominion is one of the UK’s largest social housing providers and a member of the G15, a group of London’s largest housing associations.
The secondment opportunity arose as A2Dominion was keen to recruit someone for six months to work in its treasury team. Obviously, this was a totally different area to what I was working on but I jumped at the exciting opportunity to broaden my skillset.
Even though working for a housing association wasn’t new to me, working in treasury and securitisation was, so Devonshires ensured that I was up to speed on the basics before I started the secondment, providing me with condensed training. I was also given a buddy in the firm so that I felt supported during my secondment.
Clearly undertaking a secondment during a pandemic will be different to the experience you’re likely to have when office-based working returns, but the principles of how to make the most of it remain the same. Here is my advice.
Take what is on offer
At this stage in my career I think it is important to gain as wide a range of experience as possible and that is why I accepted the secondment opportunity. I think it gives me a competitive advantage to have not only worked in a different area of the law, but also to have seen things from a client’s perspective. I advise others to do the same.
Once on secondment, don’t wait to be asked and certainly don’t wait for the emails to come in or for the phone to ring. Put your hand-up and be counted. Obviously, thanks to the pandemic, I didn’t have the advantage of being in the same office space as my new colleagues and so I telephoned people to let them know that I was there and ready to assist.
Set yourself personal goals
You can expect your employer to have objectives for what they want you to achieve, but you should also set yourself some personal goals on what it is you want to get out of the secondment.
I wanted to make sure that I could return to Devonshires with a greater understanding of the challenges faced by clients so that I could really see things from their side. Taking in a client’s perspective will make me a better, well-rounded lawyer. I also wanted to make sure that I understood how the actions of one department could help other departments.
Get a buddy/mentor
I was assigned someone at Devonshires who worked in securitisation who was on hand to help me with any technical treasury-related questions. Even though I didn’t need to check in with them too often, it was incredibly reassuring to know that the support was there if I needed it.
Get involved in extra-curricular activities
Although the pandemic has prevented face-to-face social time, A2Dominion made a real effort to engender team spirit through a range of online social activities. I took part in most of these and was even runner-up in a bake-off competition! It was a great way to ‘meet’ people from across the entire organisation in a more informal setting and enabled me to put names to faces.
I have since returned to Devonshires following my secondment, and my next goal is to secure a training contact and qualify as a solicitor.
Summer Gibb is a paralegal at City law firm Devonshires working in real estate and projects (development). She graduated from the University of Kent with an LLB before completing her LPC at The University of Law in Moorgate.
She has recently returned to the firm after completing a (virtual) six-month secondment with housing association, A2Dominion.