1) Why did you chose to do this rather than work in private practice or a permanent in-house role?
In private practice, you are often separated from the broader business of the client you are providing advice to. You may not get to understand what they do or why. As someone interested in the broader commercial context, I take great satisfaction learning about my clients’ business. Being in-house allows a feeling of being part of a team. LOD means you get to play on different teams regularly and see a wide range of business and industry.
Something many lawyers think about but don’t often talk about is the real elephant in the room. This is actually quite a hard question to answer without sounding cynical, but a growing number of lawyers believe that private practice frequently exploits its workers at the expense of work life balance. Most people in most jobs work a known number of hours for a known amount of pay. They can plan a life outside of work. Sure, many people have to sometimes put in extra to get something important across the line but it isn’t an endemic part of their jobs. If it is, it means management are poorly planning and resourcing their business.
Top and mid-tier firms expect long work weeks involving unpaid overtime that effectively dilutes hourly earnings. Many private practice lawyers used to accept this because the carrot being dangled in front of them was partnership. That’s no longer the case though – few will ever be a partner, and the path to get there is much longer than it used to be. I think this is why there are lawyers eschewing private practice for in-house or leaving the industry altogether.
2) How did you justify the risks of working in a new and innovative way?
In-house secondment now has a surprisingly time-tested viability and demand for it is growing. We know this through the success of our heritage organisations.
Adaptability is a key element of surviving and thriving – consider the risk of not being innovative.
3) Why LOD?
LOD was a loyal and supportive employer in my experience.
My path has been a bit different to most in that I had a ~15 year career in procurement, contracts and tendering before completing my articles of clerkship and gaining admission to practice. Making a mid-life career change can be difficult and many potential employers couldn’t see the complementary value in my past experience. LOD could and offered me a position. It appears to have paid off – many clients have valued my procurement and tendering experience combined with the ability to give legal advice on contracts.
4) The benefits for you to work in this way?
Doing short to medium term secondments keeps you fresh. You get to experience a new industry or new business and meet new people. You start to see different ways of doing things. It keeps you stimulated – which keeps you motivated and productive.
5) Advice for someone thinking about making the jump?
Network and maintain contact with people who may become potential clients. Work on emotional intelligence and interacting with people. A big part of success in consulting and fixed term secondments is fitting in and being likeable.
Consider adapting to become a “business person’s lawyer” where necessary rather than a strictly “lawyer’s lawyer”.