Dilbhar Sewak, a trainee solicitor in Shoosmiths' Birmingham office, shares his experience of secondments and why, in his view, the advantages are second to none!
I am currently over half way through a secondment, for my Commercial seat, at a large automotive client. With an enthusiasm for cars and a passion for technology, I didn't need to think twice before opting for this secondment!
Although this is my third secondment since working at Shoosmiths, I am surprised at how much I am still learning. I have thoroughly enjoyed these experiences and so I wanted to share with you just some of the reasons why I feel secondments are so crucial, particularly at such an early stage in your career.
Regular face-to-face client interaction is invaluable no matter what stage of your career you are at. Each secondment I have undertaken has provided me with a unique opportunity to work with the client's in-house legal team, in the client's office environment and on a wide range of matters affecting the client's business. For example, during my current secondment I have worked on matters broadly encompassing commercial contract drafting, data protection, brand protection and intellectual property, marketing and advertising and customer disputes and litigation.
As a lawyer, clients are at the centre of what we do and it is important to start building these relationships early on. A secondment provides a useful opportunity to build your confidence in this area, particularly as you will work with legal and non-legal people within the client's business and create your own profile. On returning to the office at the end of a successful secondment you will find that, should the opportunity arise, you are well placed to continue working on matters for the client given your intrinsic understanding of their business and the personal relationships you have established.
Get to grips with the client's business
During my current secondment, I have had the opportunity to work with all members of the client's in-house legal team and on a range of matters arising in the course of the client's business. The varying nature of the work has provided me with a well-rounded understanding of the client's business, their internal processes/governance and the industry in which they operate. As my knowledge of the client's business has increased, so has my confidence to take on more complex work, provide sound legal advice to the business and progress matters through to completion.
A secondment allows you to see things from the client's perspective. You appreciate how valuable it is for a client to have an external law firm on hand that really understands their business, who they are comfortable in picking up the phone to and who they can trust to liaise directly with the business. Given the pressures faced by in-house legal teams, it is crucial that, when called upon, a law firm must seamlessly operate as an extension to the client's in-house legal function. By using the experience gained while on secondment, former secondees can play an essential role in maintaining the quality of service expected by the client on their return to the office.
Maximise the opportunity
During my current secondment I have strived to get involved in as many different aspects of the business as possible, from critical GDPR activities to litigation to delivering internal training. I am responsible for owning deadlines, liaising directly with the business to understand their requirements and producing the output. I feel that my legal knowledge, commercial acumen and soft skills have benefited considerably as a result of this secondment.
Secondments provide a trainee solicitor with the opportunity to gain a wealth of experience under proficient supervision. Whilst at times it can be demanding taking ownership of a busy workload, working to what are often short deadlines and managing expectations with stakeholders, this gives you a fantastic insight into life as a qualified solicitor and the multitude of legal and non-legal skills you must possess. Secondments enable you to really hone in on and build your confidence in these areas. When facing the challenges posed by a secondment, it is reassuring to know that you have the full support of the in-house legal team and Shoosmiths' resources on hand should you ever need to call on them.
Stand out from the crowd
Secondments can be a brilliant way of differentiating your training from a conventional training contract which is limited to the firm's office. They are valued by both law firms and clients and provide you with the challenges and experiences you need to develop throughout your training. Colleagues within your law firm will recognise the trust, responsibility and expectation that the firm places on you when offering you a secondment, as you are representing the firm and are relied on to strengthen the client relationship.
When at the end of my training contract the time comes for me to apply for newly qualified roles, no matter what area of law I decide to pursue, I am sure that my past secondment experiences will provide me with the transferable skills and confidence to hit the ground running.
Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed my secondment experiences (both the triumphs and the challenges). No matter what stage of your career you are at, I would definitely recommend a secondment to anyone considering it. The advantages this will have on your development and future prospects are potentially vast. With over a month of my current secondment to go, the benefits listed above remind me of how lucky I am to have been given this opportunity and I am determined to make it count!
You may also be interested in reading "How to think like a client" by Amy Leech or watching our latest ShoosmithsLIVE video or you can read more posts with advice on the Shoosmiths careers blog.
If you have any specific questions, you can contact the graduate recruitment team via twitter or email.