Life as a trainee secondee

As the end of my secondment approaches and preparation for returning to Burges Salmon is fully underway, I reflect on my experience as an in-house lawyer.

24 June 2016

By trainee solicitor Rayann Fearon

As the end of my secondment approaches and preparation for returning to the firm is fully underway, I reflect on my experience by considering some of the most interesting revelations I have had regarding life as an in-house lawyer.

1. Jack of all trades

Do not underestimate how many different areas you will ‘turn your hand to’ in order to adhere to your (internal) clients’ needs. With little or no experience, I have had the opportunity to get involved with regulatory, commercial and property matters to name but a few. This reflects the experience of the solicitors in the team on a daily basis who would echo the point that you really do learn something new every day.

2. Valued and trusted member of the team from day one

Burges Salmon very much feels like home, so it felt very daunting going to a different company for my second seat. However, I was immediately made to feel at home and was given an unbelievable amount of responsibility, autonomy and client contact. It is very much home from home. 

3. No time recording = no pressure?

Time recording is a useful skill that you develop as a trainee. Although, there is no need to time record as an in-house lawyer (phew!); the ‘pressure’ for a trainee on secondment comes from wanting to hit the ground running; and being ready to deal with virtually anything.

Having an appreciation and understanding of the wide-ranging roles of the different members of the business; and understanding the key business drivers behind the work and advice we need to produce is imperative.

4. Keep it Commercial: “Commercial awareness”

Having heard (and used) the phrase “commercial awareness” time and time again when applying for a training contracts, it is only whilst on secondment that you can completely appreciate the importance of being commercially aware.

As well as providing legal advice, we need to think commercially and practically about the nature of the business and we need to ensure that we convey our ‘commercial’ advice in such a manner that our clients can run with it.

Working in-house also carries other responsibilities that I hadn’t considered, for example preparing documents for the executive and considering potential implications on the Board when researching and advising on issues.

5. Perception of a lawyer

Having been in private practice for four months, it has been very interesting to work amongst other professionals and learn how lawyers can be perceived. Amusingly, some members of the business see us as geeky aliens that they are not completely sure how to approach! This made me realise how important it is to be seen as approachable and how conveying that message within the business is imperative to workflow. 

Top tips for going on a secondment as a trainee

  • Embrace all of the great learning opportunities you are faced with.
  • Trust yourself and your instincts – because the company trusts you.
  • Use your experiences to think about ways in which your firm can add value to keep that client happy.
  • Enjoy it! It is over very quickly.

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