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Seconded spotlight: a government trainee's journey in private practice

05 March 2024

I am a trainee lawyer in the Commercial Law Group at Government Legal Department and spent six months at DWF LLP in the Government and Public Sector Team based in the London Office. 

During my time at DWF I have focused on competition, and in particular advising on subsidy control both for central and local government clients. During my time at DWF I also had the opportunity to get involved in other matters such as public procurement, insurance and more general commercial matters. 

Reflecting on your secondment, what valuable insights or lessons have you gained that you believe will benefit your future career within or beyond the legal field?

Having the opportunity to spend six months at DWF has given me invaluable insight into how private practice works, and its relationship with both central and local government. Having worked with private practice during my time at GLD, and now seeing it from the other side has given me a well-rounded understanding of the nuances of the relationship between central government and panel firms, and I have no doubt this will put me in better stead in my future career. 

Personally, I have learnt a huge amount about competition and subsidy control. Having known very little about this area of law prior to my secondment, I was thrown in at the deep end and started working on matters early on. 

I have worked with leading experts in the field, including my supervisors Jonathan Branton and Alexander Rose who have invested time into training me and ensuring I work on a broad range of matters. 

As I am embark on my final seat at GLD, I now have a better understanding of the interconnection between public procurement and subsidy control. 

How did your transition from in-house to private practice impact your day-to-day responsibilities and approach to legal matters?

In some ways I expected there would be a bigger difference in being an in-house lawyer and working in private practice. 

There are similarities in my experience of both roles. Much like in GLD, I received a warm welcome into DWF and have felt supported throughout my time at the firm. Both in GLD and DWF, the teams I have worked in have been relatively small fostering a collegiate atmosphere. However, my day-to-day responsibilities do look very different. 

Firstly, in most GLD Commercial teams, we have an annual budget for legal advice which means no billing and time record is used for different purposes. However, day to day in private practice, billing and time recording are key for the firm's success. 

Secondly, I have been involved with marketing at DWF, in a way that I have not been in GLD. For example, I have drafted multiple articles for the DWF website including commercial awareness updates, case summaries as well as reflections on policy announcements. I have also taken on more knowledge management tasks such as drafting a weekly internal newsletter to update fee-earners internally on current commercial and competition awareness.

In what ways did your experience with DWF enhance your understanding of client needs and expectations, and how do you plan to apply these insights to your role moving forward?

My time at DWF has definitely taught me more about client care and how to ensure you are balancing varying client needs effectively. However, I do feel client care is something that is central to our outlook at GLD and has been a skill I have built up throughout my legal career so far. 

How did your secondment influence your perspective on the legal profession as a whole, and what advice would you offer to other trainees considering a similar experience?

If you have the opportunity to do a secondment, I would definitely advise taking it. It has given me a unique insight in understanding how private practice actually works, as opposed to just going off hear-say, or others experiences. I think I had always thought that I would find private practice intimidating and that I would not quite fit into the corporate mould, but this has been far from my experience. I have been made to feel very welcome, and made friends and contacts that I hope to stay in touch with. 

More broadly, working in another organisation gives you such a good opportunity to understand what other organisations do well, and allows you to think about how some of these lessons could be brought back into one's own workplace.

What are your three top tips for someone about to embark on a secondment?

  1. Drop any pre-conceptions at the door on your first day, and approach it with an open mind 
  2. Be active about reaching out to fee-earners if you are interested in the work they are doing 
  3. Attend all the social events and training events you can!

This was written by Catherine Cross (GLD Secondee)

Further Reading