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James, a trainee from the London Office, shares his thoughts on how beneficial a client secondment can be to your training contract

As a leading global law firm, DLA Piper offers fantastic client and international secondment opportunities as part of the training contract.  I opted to complete a client secondment in London in order to gain a high level of client exposure at an early stage of my legal career with a view to developing my commercial awareness and sector knowledge.

What was the work like?

The secondment was highly varied and I had a variety of different tasks to complete each day which was stimulating and rewarding.  Drafting, reviewing and negotiating commercial contracts formed the basis of my day-to-day work as this is an integral part of the in-house role.  As I was seconded to a FTSE 250 company, I was also heavily involved in supporting the Company Secretary in the company secretarial and corporate governance aspects of the business, which included navigating GDPR and its implications.  I particularly enjoyed having a role in preparing the company's Annual Report to shareholders as well as preparing for, and attending, the Annual General Meeting - both of which are significant events in a listed company's calendar.

What skills did I develop?

The range of work enabled me to develop a broad variety of skills. My secondment offered a high level of autonomy when it came to many of the legal aspects of the business which developed my ability and confidence to make independent decisions.  The in-house role is naturally very client-facing and this improves communication skills and confidence in converting complex legal issues into language that business professionals can understand and use.  Importantly, spending six months at a company within a specific sector also develops strong commercial awareness in that sector.  It is this commercial awareness that clients are expecting more than ever from their lawyers.  The secondment has also enabled me to advance team-working skills and the ability to integrate into new working environments.

What have I learnt from the experience?

One of the biggest takeaways for me is that clients value lawyers that are able to use their legal knowledge to find solutions, rather than to present problems.  The experience also allowed me to gain a unique insight into the running of the listed company and to understand the work that takes place, often behind the scenes, to promote its long-term success.

In summary, my client secondment ranks highly as one of the best experiences of my training contract at DLA Piper.  The in-house role requires a different skillset to private practice which is invaluable at such an early stage and I am sure I will benefit from an expanded professional network.  I would encourage anyone completing a training contract at DLA Piper to consider undertaking a client secondment.

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