What’s a typical day like on secondment?
It might sound like a cliche, but just like a day at the OC office, there is no typical day on secondment. This keeps me on my toes! Some days, there’s a real buzz and rush of adrenaline to get everything ready for a fund closing, other days it’s workshops on female leadership and how to be a better negotiator. And on really exciting days, you get to fly to Germany for the day to see how business is conducted at a global level. I’ve also been spoilt on the social side: I’ve been taken to drinks in Mayfair and there’s always someone who’s up for grabbing lunch and sitting in Trafalgar Square or Victoria Embankment Gardens.
How has the secondment experience benefitted you?
On secondment, you become the client. Suddenly, you are the one who is instructing outside counsel and expecting a certain level of service and delivery from your lawyers. It really puts things into perspective and going back to private practice, I’ll certainly use the skills I’ve learnt to build a successful client/lawyer relationship. You are also awarded a great deal of responsibility: to the people working in the business side of the firm, there is no real distinction between a trainee and a qualified lawyer, so you have to quickly turn up the volume of your confidence and take ownership of your tasks. There is always a safety net to fall back on (your supervisor), but you want to make your department proud and add value to the business. And of course, because you are working with non-lawyers on a daily basis, you become more commercially focused and less prone to talking in nonsensical “legalese” just because it’s easier.
What’s the difference between in-house and private practice?
From the beginning you are exposed to lawyers from a range of law firms, and at different levels. It’s amazing how much you can learn and how you develop your own legal “persona” just by osmosis. You’re also working closely with the people in the business so you have to learn a whole different jargon in a matter of weeks. And in a small legal team, as the most junior person, the diversity of tasks I’m given is fantastic: from commercial tasks like reviewing NDAs or drafting Support Services Agreements, all the way to corporate and funds work like incorporating limited partnerships and negotiating SPA terms.
What have your best moments so far?
I’ve had quite a few great moments during my time on secondment, so I can’t settle just for one, but I’ll have to pick three.
1. Instructing outside counsel and then dealing with very senior people at different law firms who put you in the client seat. Your trainee questions are suddenly given monumental value, a feeling that I am certainly going to miss when I go back to private practice.
2. Working closely with the people in the business. I’ve been fortunate to work closely with a bunch of hard-working and creative people, at the top of their game in the industry. It’s great to see how my role can help them pursue their business ambitions.
3. International offices. Whilst my trip to Germany was a great bonus, I am regularly dealing with people from international offices: from Luxembourg to NewJersey, Frankfurt or Milan, this kind of international exposure is part of my day-to-day job.