You might think that once you've got your training contract you're set for life; you've joined the only company you'll ever need. That could be true – but if you're maybe not so enthusiastic about spending the next sixty years in the same place, a secondment could be for you, which would allow you to do multiple if you wanted.
What is a secondment?
In a nutshell, a secondment is a period of time during which an employee from one company or department temporarily moves to another. A secondment would form part of your training contract, usually lasting six months, or a 'seat'. There are occasionally three-month secondments, however.
Are secondments obligatory?
You're not required to do a secondment to qualify as a lawyer, although as part of your training contract you'll need to work in at least three different areas of law. Some firms may have a compulsory secondment period, while some might not have the option at all, so it's worth checking before you apply for your training contract.
Should I do a secondment? What are the benefits?
No one can make the decision for you, but if you have the option to do one it would be a shame to waste an opportunity. We've interviewed a lot of lawyers who have done secondments and all believe they greatly improve the training contract experience.
Doing a secondment usually means that you will have a lot more responsibility in your new department – you'll probably be joining a very small legal team of one of your firm's clients, rather than being surrounded by qualified lawyers. You'll be dealing with clients on a much more intimate basis, and have a chance to see how the companies your firm deals with operate.
Not only will you understand the companies better, but it's a great opportunity to build up relationships with clients and expand your network.
Some firms also offer international secondments, giving trainees the chance to see the differences between UK business and companies abroad. These secondments tend to be more competitive though, so you'll need to check out your options early.
Where can I do my secondment?
The opportunities for secondment will depend entirely on your law firm, the companies they deal with and what they want you to be doing. In general, secondments are usually offered at large corporations like investment banks or with corporate clients, but there are opportunities with nationwide charities too.
When should I do my secondment?
You can do a secondment at any point during your training contract, but again the opportunities will vary based on your firm. Most secondments take place in the last six months of your contract, which means that you are more experienced when you get there. It is possible to do it earlier, but remember we said a secondment would give you significantly more responsibility.
But what about my law firm?
Don't worry, they won't think you've abandoned them. Different law firms vary in how much they are involved with your secondment. Some might let you run off and get your lawyer on, but others will assign you a supervisor or mentor to keep up-to-date with your progress and answer any questions you may have. Even if you don't get a mentor, you're still a trainee at your firm and your colleagues will always be on hand to help you out if needed.