Client secondment or internal seat during my training contract?

Dear Oracle

Client secondments seem to be an ever more popular part of training contracts at many commercial firms. What are the benefits of going on a client secondment over staying within the firm for the entire training contract?

The Oracle replies

Legal secondments offer a lawyer the opportunity to work for one of her or his firm's clients, typically for three to six months. The number of secondment opportunities being offered to trainees and junior lawyers has increased over the past few years. And while the nature of the secondment will differ depending on the size and type of organisation at which a secondee is placed, the broad benefits of completing a secondment in the early stages of a legal career are the same.

Grow as a lawyer

One of the biggest benefits is confidence – although it can be daunting to work within an in-house legal team, it is an opportunity to hone your skills and appreciate the significance of the law within a client's business. Your confidence will likely grow over the course of the secondment, as you become better placed to deal with legal matters and queries as they arise.

Understand the client’s business

The level of client contact during a secondment easily surpasses the exposure a trainee would gain in private practice. As a secondee works within the business and gains an appreciation for the way the business runs, they will better understand what a business requires from its legal advisers.

Client relationships

Third, the relationships formed during a secondment can be very useful in the future. A secondee can begin to establish a profile and reputation outside the boundaries of the firm. A good performance can lead to feedback that will prove invaluable in confirming and re-enforcing a secondee's ability to both the firm, its clients and the wider legal community.

With more companies establishing or growing their in-house legal teams, requests for secondees are likely to increase. From a company's perspective, secondments provide access to legal advice from a lawyer within their business who appreciates the commercial context in which that advice is sought. Firms benefit too, as their profile is raised within the client’s business, and the knowledge gained from a secondment can help firms to offer a more tailored service for a particular client.

If you are given the opportunity to undertake a client secondment, definitely take it. Going on secondment and becoming the lawyer who understands a particular client can make you the go-to person within the firm.

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