13 December 2018

By trainee solicitor David Hine

In the second year of my training contract, I spent four months on secondment with the in-house legal team at a substantial professional services firm headquartered in London. Below are some of my reflections on the change in lifestyle and experience that I gained. 

A change in lifestyle

My wife and I live in Cardiff, so when the opportunity first arose, I had a real worry that working away from home in London would take its toll. However, Burges Salmon were great at hearing my concerns and agreeing a suitable solution with the client. I was offered an ‘agile working’ plan which involved working three days a week in London, one day in Bristol, and one day at home in Cardiff. I was also given a very generous living allowance (which included travel expenses) and put up in a very nice hotel next to Hyde Park.

The flexibility and comfort afforded to me made the temporary change in lifestyle extremely enjoyable. I was able to sample London living, meet up with London-based friends, keep in shape at the hotel gym and binge some boxsets on the train – all without sacrificing too much of my home-life.

I would therefore urge anyone who is worried about the logistics of a secondment to have an open conversation with their firm about flexible working. It might not always be workable but you won’t know until you’ve asked the question.

The experience gained

The team I worked with mainly advised the business on litigation, contractual and regulatory issues. One of my main responsibilities was to help respond to internal reports of potential legal and reputational risks. With supervision, I was responsible for advising and monitoring the reports assigned to me and draft notifications to the professional indemnity insurers if necessary.

I learnt a lot from this responsibility and autonomy. Most cases required me to pick up the phone and talk to the relevant project partner in the first instance. These discussions would start by ascertaining the facts – i.e. what caused the issue and why – and would then move into an analysis of the potential legal/commercial risks and advice on what was needed going forward.

I quickly learnt to be confident and trust my instincts. In most cases I relied on my LPC knowledge but there was always the safety net of a quick search on Practical Law and/or a discussion with the wider team (the culture was very collaborative). I learnt that the key skill was to ensure my advice appropriately balanced the legal risks with the commercial objectives of the business.

On the more established cases, I helped the team with legal research and liaised with the external lawyers on developing the case analysis. There was still some grunt work (e.g. photocopying and file reviews) but these tasks often fed directly into the case analysis, which justified and made palatable any tedium.

I would strongly recommend doing a secondment to any junior lawyer. The work and responsibility is extremely gratifying and in-house teams invariably deal with a diverse mix of legal problems. It gives you a great perspective on how private practice fits into the broader picture and (most importantly) you get to build deep and new relationships with people who you may well work with in the future.

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