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Re-thinking Legal Career Paths: Secondments and New Ways of Working

29 May 2020

Sam Burrett

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Legal secondments guide

There has never been a better time for Lawyers to consider alternative career paths.

Traditionally, Lawyers have had two options: private practice or in-house. The trajectories of both paths are almost set in stone: work your way through the ranks to eventually become equity Partner or General Counsel.

But now, for the first time in history, we are seeing new doors open for Lawyers looking to do something different. Some Lawyers are tired of the inflexibility of private practice. Others have found their careers stalled under an immovable GC or Partner. Some lawyers just want to experience something new.

Joining a dynamic resourcing company and taking on secondments might seem daunting, but it is more popular and more acceptable than ever. Experiencing multiple secondments might be what you need to take your career to the next level.

New ways of working

In the past, becoming a secondee was not a legitimate career path. Rather, secondees in Law Firms were considered pawns in a Partner’s strategy to retain and engage clients.

Undertaking multiple secondments was not common, and was certainly not a way for ambitious Lawyers to advance their careers.

But now, two major forces are dismantling the stigma around Legal secondments:

1. The ‘more for less’ pressure

In-house teams have sought alternative resourcing strategies to handle the dual pressures of increasing workloads and constrained budgets. Secondments have become an increasingly popular way for GCs to tackle their workload without draining the function’s resources.

2. Dedicated legal secondment partners

The success of secondment businesses such as Plexus Engage and Axiom has opened this model to the rest of the market. Even the ‘Magic Circle’ of large international law firms have launched their own secondment companies.

It is now acceptable, and perhaps advantageous, to become a secondee as part of a successful career path.

As the Legal sector continues to transform, Lawyers are increasingly working secondments into their journey. At the same time, clients increasingly require efficient, alternative methods of delivering Legal services, increasing the demand for secondees.

Leaping ahead

Ambitious lawyers are increasingly using secondments to develop competency and extend their networks.

Working for multiple businesses exposes Lawyers to a range of skills and working environments, each with a steep learning curve. Those who are committed to delivering excellent legal work, and who enjoy learning, can build broad-base knowledge and expertise much faster than their peers in traditional legal workplaces.

Plexus Engage Lawyers will typically join an in-house team for the duration of a project or matter, such as a piece of litigation or a large M&A deal. Our top-performing secondees are hungry to learn and are motivated to perform at a high standard, so they tackle the client’s projects head-on. In doing so, they get to learn from a range of lawyers and collect a diverse set of experiences, making them more employable in the long run.

Secondee Lawyers thrive on pushing themselves outside their comfort zone and tailoring their Legal career to focus on areas of Law they are excited to learn about. Many have found this provides the opportunity to leap ahead of their peers.

Work-life balance

The traditional career in the Law has never been a great way to achieve work-life balance.

While it is possible, it is difficult to find success in BigLaw while also maintaining a hobby or side-hustle, or without sacrificing relationships with friends and family. Many Lawyers are looking to alternative resourcing companies as a way to claw back some of their free-time whilst still flexing their legal skills and growing their profile.

Many Plexus Engage Lawyers are passionate travelers, taking trips throughout the year between their engagements. NSW-based Susie recently took up a job in Melbourne to experience a new city while working as a Lawyer.

Finding the right partner

It can be scary to leave the structure of traditional Legal pathways to seek a new way of working. When a Lawyer takes their career into their own hands, they must partner with a dynamic resourcing company that can guide them through the process and match them with interesting opportunities.

Dynamic resourcing companies offer support, training and development, access to a community of like-minded lawyers, and clarity on the available options.

When evaluating which company to work with, one should consider the following;

  • Do they understand Lawyers?
  • Do they understand the Legal industry and trends affecting the industry’s future?
  • Do they have connections with top clients in the industries/sectors that align with the Lawyer’s interests?
  • How will they support their Lawyers with advice, training, and resources after the first secondment?

Finding the right Legal resourcing partner will dramatically improve your success as a secondee.

Our advice to Lawyers is to always connect with a company that shares similar values to you, understands the industry, and is committed to your success.

Over to you

The vision for a successful career in Law has changed.

Lawyers join companies such as Plexus to upskill, gain new experiences and insights, balance their lifestyles and ultimately accelerate their career trajectories.

Becoming a Plexus Lawyer may be the next step you’ve been looking for.

Flexible support for in-house legal teams, on demand

Plexus Engage provides top-tier legal talent to support the ever-changing needs of in-house legal departments. Our highly skilled lawyers are available for immediate start


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