I had done it: secured a training contract at my dream firm, after an intense but enjoyable three-week Summer Internship. Whilst departing through the firm doors, I naïvely thought that I would not be walking back into the firm until a lot later down the line, perhaps a few weeks before the commencement of my Graduate Programme (training contract), but I was wrong.
As a future Graduate at DLA Piper, you are treated as part of the firm's global network, despite the fact that you are technically a future employee. In my case, I was very privileged to have been offered a secondment with a market-leading client in the Media, Sports and Entertainment sector, prior to my Graduate Programme. This in itself is testament to the firm's commitment to developing its employees at all levels; one of the many things that initially made me apply.
A month or so after the internship had ended, I found myself walking through the firm doors once again, greeted by a host of familiar faces. I was given a full induction, a briefing and a DLA Piper laptop with my own account. On the face of things, a laptop and a DLA Piper account may sound a given, but it means that you are always connected to the firm and you can keep up with events and firm developments during your time on secondment. I have not yet completed the LPC so it was comforting to know that you are not just dropped into a client organisation without support. Although, it does mean that I now have a shiny touchscreen Lenovo and sleek new Mac sitting next to the only laptop that is mine: a jurassic Lenovo with a cracked screen.
While on secondment, I am performing trainee-level work, and my day-to-day activities are very much on the practical side. I have my own remit and several matters that I manage, which broadly involves drafting different agreements, managing our internal clients and completing any ad hoc requests the team may have, such as research or preparation for meetings with third parties. I have had exposure to a large practice area within the Media industry, developing a knowledge of industry terminology and an understanding of how the market operates. I have also gained experience with related business functions, particularly compliance and regulation but also those of sales and audit.
To monitor my development, I have a weekly catch up with my supervisor and a monthly ‘Training Record’ to fill out. The latter is something that tangibly demonstrates what I have been working on and will help me further down the line. Additionally, I sit next to my supervisor, in the same hub as the rest of my legal team, and our Head of Legal sits three chairs down, so I can easily seek guidance should I need it.
A secondment is a fantastic experience and a great way to broaden both your skillset and your mindset. By virtue of being a secondee, you have already gained value. However, it is up to you to maximise that value as much as you can – which is what I am trying to do. There are trainees from other firms here, which means I can broaden my network and chat to people in the same position as me. Also, there are industry and law firm events taking place from time to time, which enables me to meet people from the wider business, for example from the other internal legal teams or external clients. I also have monthly catch-ups with an Employment Partner at DLA Piper and I cannot stress how supportive she is – making herself available for a call, day or night.
Overall, a secondment allows you to consistently learn: about the business, about what clients look for, about your firm’s relationship with the client, about the market, and about different perspectives, thinking processes, and methodologies. Ultimately, every hour you spend working is another brick added to a foundation of mental and emotional intelligence, which no doubt will differentiate you as you progress through your career.