Proctor : May 2018
30 PROCTOR | May 2018 Simple tips for a successful secondment Starting a secondment can be a daunting prospect at first. In reality, secondments are fantastic opportunities for lawyers to gain exposure to key clients and experience the everyday challenges faced by in-house practitioners. For early career lawyers, secondments offer unique insights they can take with them throughout their careers. This article discusses five key ways to make the most of a secondment. 1. Do your research Before you start your secondment, it’s important to find out as much as possible about the client and their business. You will be of much more assistance to the client from the beginning if you’re not spending the first week trying to understand the basics of the business. • Review the client’s website. Find out what legal structure the client uses. Is the client a listed company, a proprietary company, a government-owned corporation or a statutory body? Is there an organisational chart online you can take with you? Who are your client’s key customers or clients? What are your client’s values? • Find out as much as you can about the client’s industry. What reports about this industry have recently been in the news? Is there any industry-specific terminology that you need to be aware of? • If the client is in the private sector, consider whether there is particular legislation that affects their business. If the client is a government body, review its establishing legislation and general sources of public entity governance. • Talk to colleagues at your firm who have previously worked with the client. Ask them if the client has any preferences or particular requirements in relation to advice or documents. • See if you can find the team members you will be working with on LinkedIn. Find out what skills they bring to the client and look for opportunities if there are skill gaps you can fill. If you take the time to prepare and find out as much about the client as possible, you’ll be able to avoid obvious errors and quickly jump into the seconded role. 2. Get involved and look for opportunities For the period that you are on secondment, treat the client as your employer. If you’re able to, attend social events hosted by the client and get involved with any extracurricular activities that the client offers, such as sporting teams or interest groups. It’s also important to look for opportunities for which you and your firm can add value while you’re on secondment. For example: • Does the client often have to deal with property issues? If so, connect the client’s legal team to your firm’s real estate team. • Does the HR team often ask for legal advice? If so, offer to see if your firm’s workplace team can deliver some free training. • Have a look at the precedents that the client is using. See if you can add value to the client by updating them. Take the time to invest in the relationship to ensure that you are front of mind the next time the client needs legal services. 3. Get to know your client Anyone who has been on a secondment will tell you that the experience is an invaluable way to gain insight into the internal processes of a key client. Obviously your first consideration needs to be your confidentiality obligations and other duties to your client. However, this doesn’t preclude you from gaining general insight into the client, the legal team and its business. Ask the general counsel why they like to instruct your firm. Ask them what they don’t like about your firm. Ask the legal team about what annoys them when dealing with external lawyers or for tips on how you can better service them. If the opportunities arise, try to sit in on meetings between the legal team and other business units. The more you can find out about the client and its challenges, the better you will be able to service them, both while you are on secondment and afterwards. 4. Don’t forget your firm It can sometimes be difficult to stay connected with your firm and your colleagues while you’re on secondment, particularly if the secondment is for an extended period of time or if the client’s office isn’t close to your firm’s office. If the client is receptive to it, try to go back to your firm periodically for relevant CLE sessions or meetings. It’s also important to continue to attend firm social events when you can to catch up with colleagues and find out about important updates.