Many firms offer a secondment option as part of the training contract seat rotation, and the opportunity to be based with a client, or in an overseas office, is often highly sought after by trainees. Allow our Experts to explain the purpose of secondments, and what trainees can gain from the experience.
Why do firms offer trainees the opportunity to go on an international secondment?
Overseas secondments make a huge contribution to trainee development, ensuring that on qualification our lawyers have strong networks, an international outlook and important skills such as networking, confidence, teambuilding, resilience etc.
Secondments expose you to different cultures, different markets and different methods of working – not to mention different climates! Completing a seat abroad, in offices such as Singapore or Abu Dhabi, often means working with people from totally different backgrounds. This is important to the firm as it helps us create and maintain relationships with overseas colleagues and allows us to truly understand our global clients' businesses.
At Shearman, all our teams are globally structured so though you are out of sight you are not out of mind – you'll be regularly working with the London team and contributing to a seamless service for our clients.
At Shearman we are proud that our London trainees have such a great reputation, allowing us to continue offering secondments abroad to many of our overseas offices.
Shearman & Sterling
What do trainees gain from being seconded to an overseas office?
An understanding of our wider global network. With over 50 offices worldwide, and clients based across the globe, trainees who undertake an international secondment get the chance to immerse themselves in a different office environment, learning local cultural work practices and having exposure to clients and work they may not experience in London.
Widening their network. Meet trainees from other firms who they keep in touch with, meet international teams who they may then come across again further down their career - networking is really valuable and helps create a sense of a global community within the firm.
A new challenge. It's a chance to dive in at the deep end, starting in a role where you don't know the people around you, the culture or possibly even the local language. It gives our trainees a chance to really push themselves, take on additional responsibility (they may move to a smaller office where they could be the only trainee in the team, working directly for a senior partner) and learn a new language or skill.
Norton Rose Fulbright
We actively encourage our trainees to take overseas secondments; an international perspective is essential for all of our lawyers.
In addition to the opportunity to experience a different culture, as well as the travel opportunities and social possibilities that a six month secondment offers, it also allows our trainees to understand a different perspective in a cross-boarder deal.
They gain a greater level of responsibility, with access to a wider range of work and really do get the chance to develop a deeper understanding of clients within a particular region.
Our trainees are currently on international secondments in our Madrid, Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong, New York and Tokyo offices. To allow you to focus on the job in hand, we take care of the practical aspects of the move, such as relocation and accommodation, and give you any language or cultural training you might need. This really does help you to hit the ground running and experience, first-hand, what it is like to work in another Ashurst office as well as, importantly, building up contacts in the network - the relationships that you create will help you in the future.
Why do firms offer trainees the opportunity to go on a client secondment?
Secondments are important for any firm and for a trainee to be able to experience one is a very valuable opportunity! Firms provide the chance to go on secondment, not only to enhance relationships with the client but also for trainees to develop a better understanding of the client's business. In addition to this, secondments give trainees the exposure to a different work environment where they can learn new skills and also learn to adapt their approach, supporting their development from understanding the academic principles to applying these in a practical business context. The trainee will also experience a different level of responsibility while on secondment and take pride in representing their firm.
It is not only the trainee who can benefit from going on a client secondment, but also the firm. These benefits include new knowledge and skills that the trainee has developed and can apply once back from their secondment. In addition, the firm can benefit from the closer rapport between the trainee and the client. This may lead to continued work from the client, as well as the potential for continued work for the trainee once qualified as they will have a deeper understanding of the client's needs.
How have trainees benefited from going on secondment to clients?
A trainee benefits from going on secondment by gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation of a clients’ commercial needs and constraints, company structures, market presence and risk appetites. These are very difficult components to learn as a trainee in private practice as the majority of client contact, strategy discussions and market considerations are undertaken by more senior lawyers.
A trainee gets a unique opportunity to learn how to create innovative and purpose-designed solutions. In private practice, trainees’ instructions from senior lawyers are generally very clear. On secondment however, a trainee is constantly client-facing and obtains an unmatchable insight into understanding how to accurately decipher a client’s instructions. Trainees are provided with the problem and have to create the solution from scratch. The ability to create a tailor made solution that is commercially effective and legally compliant is a key skill for any successful lawyer.
Lastly, but very importantly, a trainee regularly instructs other external service providers throughout the secondment. This offers a trainee an invaluable chance to build their own personal professional network among other external service providers and understand what clients need from their external service providers.
Womble Bond Dickinson
A secondment gives trainees an unrivalled opportunity to learn, amongst other things:
With such great experience on offer, secondment opportunities should be seized by trainees wherever possible.
Secondments really help you understand your role as a legal adviser. Whilst the training in private practice quickly gives you the technical skills needed to be a solicitor, there is no quicker way to learn the other vital skills that will make you a successful solicitor, such as commercial awareness and relationship management, than going on secondment to a client.
Most clients want solicitors who understand their business and can tailor their advice in light of the specific commercial aims and nuances of their business. Having worked in the company you should understand how it works both commercially and in terms of internal governance/procedures and therefore have the best opportunities to give truly tailored legal advice.
In addition to this, secondments give trainees an opportunity at an early stage in their career to build up a client relationship which may become valuable further on in their career.