Do I have to do a secondment if I get a training contract?
As part of a secondment, law firms offer placements in international offices or with clients for an extended period of time. However, many training contract applicants aren’t sure whether they will have to do a secondment as part of their traineeship. Here, we will discuss the situations in which you may be asked to do a placement.
Understanding secondments & training contracts
As part of the journey to qualify as a solicitor in the UK, candidates need to complete two years of mandatory work experience in a legal setting. Known as a training contract, it can be completed either with a law firm or with an in-house legal department of a company.
Secondment placements are only offered by law firms, and involve working with an external or internal partner. From supporting a client in-house to staying with the law firm and working for another department or office abroad, the secondment experience depends on where you are placed and what kind of role you are given.
Is a secondment a requirement of a training contract?
Even though secondments on a training contract aren’t mandatory, you may be required to do one to fulfil the work experience guidelines of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). The SRA demands solicitor candidates on training contracts to work in three different areas of law on their two-year placement. One way to achieve this at a private practice is by doing a secondment, which on a training contract usually lasts around six months.
Whether or not you end up doing a secondment really depends on the law firm you work for. Whilst some do not offer placements at all, certain law firms require employees on training contracts to complete a mandatory secondment at some point during their two years at the company.
In addition to knowing whether you will be requested to do a secondment, it is also important to be aware of the kind of placements that are offered to trainees.
As mentioned previously, secondments may be offered in the form of an international or in-house placement. Regional and national law firms tend to provide in-house secondments where you work closely with a client. On the other hand, international law firms are more likely to send you on a secondment abroad in one of their overseas offices. It is important to research the types of secondments on offer before submitting an application.
Why you should do a secondment
Even though you aren’t required to do a secondment on a training contract, they are highly recommended as they give a more comprehensive insight into the legal industry.
Working in-house with a client gives you the opportunity to work closely with a business and see how legal advice affects a company’s operations. This kind of placement will help you gain an understanding of the legal experience from the client’s perspective, giving you a more rounded legal education.
Additionally, by the time you have completed your secondment, you would have experienced working both in a private practice and an in-house setting, putting you in a better position to decide which pathway to pursue after qualifying as a solicitor.
International secondments with a private practice have their merits too. You have the chance to experience a different work environment and gain new skills from fellow employees that you can apply to legal work once back in your home office.
The SRA does not require candidates to complete secondments on their training contracts. However, certain law firms have made them mandator