Secondments are a good career move

Have you considered a client secondment as part of your career plan? If not, don’t dismiss it as something that will detract from your rise up the ranks in your firm. Secondments have many benefits – to you, your firm and also the client.Secondment

If you are offered the opportunity to take up a client secondment think about the following:

  • Is it a strategic client connection, ie. a client that the firm is trying to develop and which has good work?
  • Is it an area of work that interests you?
  • Will the work be challenging? Check the level of authority you will have to make sure the work is at a level that will enhance your skills or develop new ones.

If the answers to the above questions are ‘yes’ then a secondment will be very beneficial for you:

  • you will be exposed to the client in a way that enables you to understand, in more depth, the industry in which the client works
  • you will be exposed to broader work than what you are currently undertaking in the firm
  • you will develop an understanding of what a client expects from the legal advisers
  • you will also develop relationships with a greater number of people at the client organisation, and in doing so, within your firm as well
  • because of the relationships you develop, you are likely to have work referred directly to you on your return to the firm.

Before going on a secondment talk to your supervising partner and the partner responsible for that client (if they are different people) about their expectations of you from the secondment. In this discussion it is also important to make sure that the secondment fits in to your personal career plan and discuss that with them as well.

Find out as much as you can about the client, its industry, its needs and any relationship ‘red flags’. If there have been problems in the relationship, knowing about them makes it easier to manage them.

While it will be annoying to have to check two lots of emails, make sure you don’t miss out on training and CLE opportunities within the firm. Where possible, take someone from the client organisation with you – just as secondments themselves are a ‘value add’ for the client, so are training opportunities, with the added bonus of being able to introduce the client to more people in the firm.

During the course of the secondment, stay in touch with your firm and supervising partners.

If for whatever reason it is not working, speak to your supervising partner at the earliest opportunity, as small problems are better dealt with early before they become big problems.

However, most importantly, on your return, how do you capitalise on your secondment? These are the four most important things:

  1. Debrief with the client
  2. Debrief with your supervising partner and client relationship partner
  3. Revisit your career plan and make sure that what you learned while on secondment is not lost, and that it fits within your career plan – and your plan may need to be reviewed if you have developed an interest in a new area of law
  4. Develop a plan to make regular contact with those you worked with at the client

Structured well, a secondment is a unique opportunity to deepen client relationships, increase your industry knowledge and improve client and legal skills.