Dear Amicus Agony,
I have been considering whether or not to submit a formal request to my supervising partner for a secondment to a client (whom I potentially see myself working for in the long-term as an alternative to private practice). Do you have recommendations for me on this subject matter?
Newly Qualified Associate
Dear Newly Qualified Associate,
A secondment would certainly give you another perspective of legal practice which you may not see within a law firm. However, whether or not a secondment would be appropriate for your current circumstances depends on a number of factors (some of which are within your control and others not).
From your end, you may express an interest to your supervising partner if an active opportunity for a secondment to your target client arises. An alternative would be for this expression of interest to be raised formally during an appraisal. To be honest, whether or not your request will be positively received will depend from firm to firm and supervisor to supervisor – some may view secondments (particularly ones which the client is not paying for) as a drain on the firm’s resources while others may view them as an opportunity to build (or strengthen) rapport with clients from the inside.
From your perspective, you should have a number of years of post-qualifying experience in order to ensure you are able to contribute positively to the client. As your objective is to be employed by them in the future, it is absolutely vital that you are able to impress them with your legal knowledge and commercial awareness. Embarking on the secondment when you are too junior may be detrimental if you come across to the clients as being indecisive or unsure of your application of the law in the commercial context.
In summary, you may want to self-evaluate your capabilities and ascertain whether you are ready for a client secondment and whether the timing fits into your longer term career objectives. Separately, if not already apparent to you, you should consult peers and other colleagues within the firm with regards to the various stakeholders’ willingness (or lack thereof) to support a secondment request so that preparations can be made beforehand accordingly.
Good luck and wishing you the very best!
Dear Amicus Agony,
I am extremely overworked. I am the only associate in my team and I often have to have to work long hours. I have told my Partner that I am overwhelmed and that I need another person to help with the work but nothing has been done to date. I am often left to deal with the files on my own and they are piling up on my table at an alarming rate! Also, I feel that if I bring the matter up again, I might come across as incapable. I need help!
Dear Cannot Tahan,
If you feel that you are not given the support you need or the assistance, you should consider moving to greener pastures. That would, of course, be the easiest course of action, so kudos to you for trying to sort the matter out and actually talking to your Partner about your situation.
There are many who suffer in silence and secretly hope for change but it will not happen unless your Partner is made aware of the issues that you are currently facing.
Cannot Tahan, do not be afraid to approach your Partner with the same matter again, especially if the work is piling up and you are unable to meet the deadlines. That would not look good on you and the firm. But instead of taking the bull by the horns and confronting your Partner about it, I would suggest a softer, more diplomatic approach.
First, remind your Partner of the previous conversation, that you are the only associate in the team and it would be beneficial to have another associate in the team.
Next, reiterate the importance of having someone else on the team. Highlight the fact that the work has been piling up and you would be able to produce a higher level of work if you had someone to share the load with.
Finally, suggest to your Partner that you are willing to assist in the search for a suitable candidate to join the team. That would allow you to push the matter further forward if nothing is being done by your Partner.
I hope this helps and good luck!