The ins and outs of Legal Secondment
So, what is legal secondment and what is a secondee lawyer? A legal secondment is where a lawyer temporarily joins an in-house legal team of an organisation to help with a specific project, provide legal expertise or simply give a lift to existing teams with their day-to-day workload, without becoming a permanent member of the organisation.
Traditionally a legal secondment was something a lawyer did through their private practice (law firm) employer earlier in their career to gain more commercial experience. However, legal secondments are now something that lawyers are doing at any stage of their career to gain more flexibility and control over how they work and broaden their skillset and industry knowledge across various sectors. Further, it allows lawyers some ‘breathing space’ to couple the law with other non-legal interests such as family, travel or even a start-up.
Legal secondments are still a practice of law firms. However, with the global rise of ‘new law’/ alternative legal service providers in the last 5-10 years lawyers are now able to partner with firms who provide you with legal secondment opportunities with the full self-determination to pick and choose the type of legal work you do and in which industry, within a timeframe that suits you personally and professionally. With legal secondment, the law firm can decide on whether the secondment service and opportunities are via an employment or contract-based engagement, depending on their structure.
In this quick guide, we’ll explain how legal secondments work through the lense of Plexus and the advantages this brings for secondee lawyers.
How legal secondments work
Now that you know what legal secondment is, you may be wondering how does a secondment work? Think of it as being a project-based lawyer. With a legal secondment, the legal secondee works in-house for an external company on a specific matter, for a set period of time. The legal secondment can last months or years, depending on the project. Then, at the end of the secondment, the secondee lawyer moves onto another client secondment or perhaps pursues other non-legal interests or simply enjoys a well-earned break!
So, why would an organisation opt for a legal secondee over engaging a law firm or hiring their own permanent resource?
There are lots of compelling reasons. First, the client gains the advantages of a top-quality lawyer on demand without the high per-minute cost of engaging a law firm.
In addition, an organisation may only need extra legal resources for a specific project or busy period. Lots of in-house teams have become leaner to deal with budget restrictions, but this means they have less flexibility to deal with spikes in demand, such as major projects or unexpected team absences.
Rather than adding extra pressure to their existing legal team, organisations can bring in a contract legal secondee to take on the extra work and provide the lift where required.
Top benefits of legal secondment for lawyers
1. Broaden your skillset
On a legal secondment, you have the ability to ‘parachute in’ to a wide variety of clients across various industries for a wide range of matters. This encourages you to develop professionally and gain a competitive advantage in your career. As Christine Swan, Senior Counsel at Plexus, says, “Not being tied down in one location but moving from client to client has been very rewarding and great for building my skill set."
2. Work on some of the most exciting legal matters available
Think about what really excites you about being a lawyer. With a legal secondment, the lawyer is able to work on projects with what they want to do - challenging and interesting work that will enhance their skills.
3. Leverage your specialised skillset
Forget the politics and pressure you may have experienced with other firms. A legal secondment means you are recognised and valued as the go-to legal specialist within the organisation.
4. Enjoy work-life flexibility
Lawyers on secondment are effectively lawyers on demand. So, when the secondment period is over, you can move straight to another one or choose to take some time off in between to pursue whatever it is you want to do with no pressure to take a particular course in your career – that’s the flexibility of a legal secondment.