International Legal Secondments: My Experience and Q&A's
In this post I share my knowledge in regards to what I have learned from my own experience of going on an International secondment.
My international secondment was less conventional than most, and a bit out of the ordinary in comparison to the (usual) secondments offered by law firms. Ordinarily, most individuals who go on secondment it is common practice for their firm to offer international secondments especially in larger commercial firms for their trainees. I was the first person to go on secondment in the firm that I worked in at the time (a medium sized Scottish Personal Injury firm).
I saw the secondment advertised online, done my research and approached the partners to tell them about the opportunity and asked if it was a possibility. To my complete shock and surprise they said yes! Though to be completely transparent, I hesitated for weeks before the deadline, debating whether I was good enough, and whether I should approach my employer to ask. Moral of the story being, if you don't ask, you will never know.
I was seconded to the UK Law Societies Brussels Office from January - March 2019. Yes that it right you guessed it - I was living and working in Brussels city centre on the final Brexit exit date, marking the UK's departure from the EU. I think I can
guess what your next question is - what about the pandemic? I by chance actually left Brussels just before the pandemic widespread lock down in the UK. Though do not be phased by this when considering a secondment, as the office I was seconded to more recently offered virtual secondments to those who were unable to travel due to restrictions, and I know other law firms/businesses who have offered similar opportunities too!
Use the arrow to scroll on the image below too see some of my photos I took whilst on secondment
Click on the arrows to expand the answers to the questions below
What is a secondment?
A secondment is an opportunity for an individual to work for another team, or at a different firm or business for a set period of time (usually 3-6 months) or sometimes up to one year. They will still remain employed by their firm or the business, but spend a period of time away as agreed with their employer.
How long can I go for?
Secondments usually last approximately 3-6 months, but can sometimes be for one year or longer depending on the grounds/reasons for secondment i.e. for the length of a specific project that the individual is working on.
How do I approach my employer to ask to go on a secondment?
KEY: you have to make it clear to your employer how they/the business/the law firm will benefit from sending you on secondment. Treat it like a business pitch or proposition.
Do your research - how will your secondment fit or align with your firms aims and objectives?
Do you have all the information you need to hand already?
Consider your answers to the following questions:
- What will the firm/business get out of sending you on secondment? How will they benefit?
- What knowledge will you learn on secondment that you can share to benefit your current employer?
- Are there any testimonials from previous secondee's or articles written about their secondment experience that you can share with your employer?
- What will your employer be responsible for, and what will your responsibilities be? (e.g. will your employer pay your wage whilst you are on secondment, will they provide your accommodation allowance?)
- Will you be responsible for organising your accommodation and for living allowances?
- Has your firm sent their employees on secondment before? If yes, can you speak with previous secondee's and find out more and seek advice from them on your approach?
What are the benefits of secondments?
- Experience in a new area of law or legal environment
- Ability to increase your network and make more contacts in the legal world
- Opportunity to increase your confidence
- Enables you to learn new ways of working and from other legal professionals
- An opportunity to embrace a new culture, food, country, city and working environment
- The chance to meet new friends, and meet other individuals who are also on secondment
- The ability to travel on your time-off from work and see new landmarks, cities and places
- The chance to try out something new
- An amazing addition to your legal work experience on your CV
- Great examples you can use based on your secondment experience in an interview scenario
- I could go on forever as in my opinion the benefits of a secondment are endless (but of course I am a little bias)
What are the cons of international secondments?
- You could potentially miss out on an opportunity at your current employment
- It could cause you to be out-of-pocket (depending on the terms of your secondment)
- You may not be able to fully immerse yourself *queue - the pandemic issues again*
- There may be language/translation difficulties if it is an international secondment
- Sourcing accommodation that it available/affordable may be difficult especially in larger cities
- It may not contribute to your time spent as a trainee (if you are currently a trainee solicitor double check the period of time you are on secondment will contribute to your training contract time i.e. 6 months on secondment will count as 6 months training if you were to remain in your current firm)
- Further distance from your family and friends
- Potential visa issues depending on your nationality etc. (ensure you check this with the secondment organiser)
- May be difficult for those who have children, caring responsibilities or other dependants due to their international nature and requirements to travel and work abroad
Where should I look for secondments and how do I find out about them?
- Your firm/business (ask graduate recruitment or those who have previously been on secondment)
- LinkedIn (connect with those who have secondments mentioned in their title or work experience)
- LinkedIn job search