Client Secondments: The Benefits from a Trainee Perspective

Trainee Laura outlines her experience working in a Government legal department

15 February 2022

This article was written by Laura Callard.

During the third seat of my training contract, I was lucky enough to spend three months on secondment with a Government legal department. I have outlined my experience and the benefits below.

The work

First and foremost, I found the work to be fascinating and I was exposed to some very interesting matters, frequently involving new areas of law. The team I was seconded to specialised in litigation and I was given a valuable insight into contentious law and its many complexities. Aside from my academic studies, I had very little prior experience in litigation. The secondment allowed me to develop my understanding of this area of law through the eyes of lawyer working within a Government legal department.

I was able to undertake a wide range of tasks whilst working with lawyers from across the team. Typical tasks ranged from managing cost schedules and reviewing court documents, to preparing advice and presenting it to clients. I also frequently helped the team with legal research and quickly learnt that the key skill was proving the negative in the absence of a definitive answer to a question.

In addition to assisting with ongoing casework, I was also given more general tasks such as updating the team’s internal training manual and producing weekly legal news updates. I found these tasks incredibly beneficial as they provided me with a background understanding into the relatively niche area of law covered by the team and increased my awareness of legislative and industry changes.

Personal development

I found working in the public sector to be a very different experience to private practice and it was really interesting to learn about how the organisation operates and the differing priorities and demands in comparison to those experienced in private practice. Working alongside the lawyers within the team allowed me to consider issues from their perspective (both legally and non-legally) and the varying types of advice required.

I was quickly given responsibility and the opportunity to advise clients directly. The level of client contact was easily one of the main benefits of the secondment and enabled me to develop my approach when dealing with clients and providing advice. Despite the autonomy, I was appropriately supervised and always felt fully supported by the team. My involvement in a range of different matters allowed me to develop my awareness of how to effectively deliver advice to directly address clients’ individual, and often very specific, needs.

The secondment provided me with opportunities to raise the profile of Burges Salmon and build my external network. I was able to establish relationships with both the organisation’s lawyers and clients alike whilst developing my networking skills within a ‘safe’ space.

Lifestyle change

As the team is based in London, I re-located for the duration of the secondment. Burges Salmon were very accommodating and supported me through this process. One of the benefits was definitely being able to walk the short distance from my apartment to the office along the River Thames whilst avoiding a lengthy commute on the tube! Having previously studied and worked in London, I was delighted to be able to catch up with London-based friends and family and re-live the experience of London in the build-up to Christmas.

Given the uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, the team I was seconded to was still working on a flexible basis and I was able to split my time between attending the office and working from home. This flexibility allowed me to meet the team in-person and experience day-to-day life within a Government legal department, whilst also enabling me to return to Bristol when needed. Weekly catch-ups with my supervisor at Burges Salmon ensured I still felt connected to the firm.

The overall experience

I highly recommend a secondment to anyone presented with the opportunity. Whilst working with a new team in a very different environment may initially seem like a daunting experience, I believe a client secondment provides the invaluable opportunity to improve your skillset whilst experiencing the role of a lawyer from the client’s perspective. The skills I developed will undoubtedly put me in good stead for the remainder of my training contract and throughout my career.

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