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BT’s experience with secondments and shadowing in-house counsel

A case note in PLCLaw Dept. Quart., Vol. 3, Jan.-March 2007 at 32, has some points about secondment by the law department of BT, the $38 billion telecoms company (See my post of July 17, 2008: secondment with 12 references; and Jan. 23, 2008.).

The legal team of approximately 150 lawyers worldwide believes, according to group general counsel, Anne Fletcher, that “secondments are a law firm’s single biggest marketing opportunity.” Many law firms might look askance at secondments, fearing loss of revenue and even loss of the valued associate. As to that risk, BT’s legal department scrupulously avoids poaching secondees from firms (See my post of Sept. 21, 2005: no-hire provisions in secondment agreements.).

BT also honors two-way secondments. For years it “has regularly sent in-house trainees to law firms.” The item in the Quarterly does not say whether the reverse secondment was available only to trainees – non-qualified solicitors – or also to more experienced in-house lawyers. It does say that the secondees work with a wide range of clients.

A final point struck me. “Occasionally external lawyers will be invited to take part in a ‘familiarisation.’” What happens is that the lawyer shadows one or more in-house teams for a short period to gain more understanding of their day-to-day work. That is a way to strengthen relationships with external counsel! I wonder whether the time is charged.