For part four of our trainee blog series, Stephen Nicolson shares his experience of what it's like to go on secondment at one of your firm's key clients.
Secondment is when a firm essentially loans a member of staff out to one of its clients. The length of a secondment is usually either a fixed period or until a particular project has been completed.
At Harper Macleod, trainees are given the opportunity to go on secondment for six months of their two-year traineeship. While on secondment they work entirely for the client while still having regular contact with the firm in the form of trainee meetings, PEAT 2 training and appraisals with a supervising partner.
What is it like to be on secondment?
Naturally, your experience of being on secondment depends on where you go, however there are similarities between all trainees’ experiences.
The work you can expect to undertake ranges from providing your legal opinion on individual queries from colleagues within the client’s office to assisting the client with larger projects.
Secondments of qualified solicitors can often last as long as a project requires, be it a particular transaction or the passing of a piece of legislation. Trainees, however, can expect to assist with any and all of the client’s needs and demands. This often includes assisting in projects that previous secondees have worked on, essentially picking up where the last trainee left off.
Work while on secondment can also include drafting notes, articles and blogs on current updates for the area of law in which the client operates. Trainees will also attend client meetings and observe the day-to-day workings of the client’s business or department.
Why go on secondment?
If you are given the chance to go on secondment, grab it with both hands. As a legal secondee, I have had the chance to work on key projects and provide advice to our client on individual cases.
These queries often involve giving an opinion on the interpretation of legislation or case law, which is of course a key skill of any solicitor. Even if you are unfamiliar with the relevant area of law, secondment is a fantastic chance to develop this skill, in addition to learning about a new area of the law and applying your legal skills in a meaningful way.
Being on secondment is an entirely client-facing role. I have had essentially unlimited client contact for the six-month period, which has allowed me to exhibit my legal training to date as an adviser to the client. As a result, I am better able to understand how the client operates and how best the firm can serve the client’s needs during the secondment and beyond.
From the legal secondee’s perspective, it is very much like being a trainee in-house solicitor. In 2017-18, only 12% of traineeships were in-house so it is relatively rate to get a glimpse of this career path. Undertaking a secondment while completing your traineeship with Harper Macleod undoubtedly offers you the best of both worlds, as you will work in one of Scotland’s leading commercial law firms but also get the chance to work directly for one of the firm’s largest clients.