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An insight into in-house: all about client secondments

29 March 2023

At Lewis Silkin, trainees are offered a range of client secondment opportunities. As we mostly work for creative businesses, there is often an opportunity to be seconded to businesses in industries like tech, film, media, and fashion.

Whilst searching for the firm to pursue your training contract at, you may have come across firms enticing you in with the promise of a glamorous and exciting client secondment, but what does it actually mean, is it worth doing one, and how does it work in practice? Hopefully I can help to answer some of the burning questions you may have when it comes to secondments. If you are on the fence on whether to volunteer for a secondment, or if you just want a bit more information about the client secondment opportunities at Lewis Silkin, then please keep reading.

What is a secondment?

A secondment is a short placement in the legal team of a client, which can last the full duration of your seat or less. You will be working in a legal team within a business, rather than a law firm, which is known as working “in-house”. When you work in-house your client will be the business’ stakeholders.

What secondment opportunities does Lewis Silkin provide?

At Lewis Silkin, trainees are offered a range of client secondment opportunities. As we mostly work for creative businesses, there is often an opportunity to be seconded to businesses in industries like tech, film, media, and fashion. I went on secondment to the employment legal team at a global film production company for my first seat and I absolutely loved the experience; after all, who wouldn’t love spending their workdays on film sets? At the moment, we don’t offer any international opportunities as our offices and clients are predominantly UK based, but we are expanding so watch this space!

What work will I do?

The work you’ll do will depend on the client that you are seconded to, and the area of law. The client secondments that arise at Lewis Silkin will be within our key practice areas , which range from employment and immigration to commercial and intellectual property. The work within a business is dictated by business need, so every day will be different, but in general it may consist of advisory work and routine contractual drafting rather than working on big pieces of litigation.

To give you an example, if you are a secondee trainee in an employment legal team, some tasks might be:

  • Preparing first drafts of routine contracts such as NDAs, Settlement Agreements, and Employment Agreements
  • Legal research
  • Taking notes in meetings with the HR team
  • Preparing advice notes
  • Co-ordination of international advice and internal projects (e.g. a TUPE transfer)
  • Updating and drafting from scratch internal policies (such as the grievance and disciplinary policy, remote working policy)

Do you have to apply?

At Lewis Silkin there’s no formal application process for a secondment. If you are interested in completing a secondment in a certain area of law, make that known at the start of your training contract so that if an opportunity arises, the team will already be aware of your interests.

Are there any downsides to completing a secondment?

Some are of the opinion that going on secondment means that you don’t feel part of the team back at your law firm, and you miss out on valuable “face time”. At Lewis Silkin, unless you have worked as a paralegal at the firm previously, you will not be eligible to go on secondment in your first seat, so that you get a chance to settle in first. The connections that you build on secondment are just as important as internal ones, and you will have plenty of time to meet the wider team over the course of your training contract.

Although a secondment can also be a steep learning curve, this is a positive as it means you are pushed out of your comfort zone and improve as a lawyer and, after all, a training contract is about training. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and feel free to ask your supervisor and colleagues for help as much as you need.

Should I do a client secondment?

Absolutely! Working in-house is such an invaluable experience as you get to really understand the business of your client and what they are looking for in their legal advice – ultimately it’s a fantastic way to learn how in-house legal teams work, making you more likely to understand how to provide legal advice in the best format. It is also a great development opportunity as often trainees are given more responsibility in a business than they get at a law firm (mainly due to smaller team sizes). I was negotiating contracts on my own within my first month of working in-house – this can be scary, but it is a great chance to improve your skills (and a supervisor will always check your work, don’t worry.

To summarise, client secondments are a great opportunity to improve your commercial awareness, legal skills, and to build connections with our clients. I can't promise that all secondments at Lewis Silkin will lead to a private tour of a film set, but they will most certainly be an enjoyable experience and could even be a highlight of your training contract.'

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