Saturday, 19 November 2011

Secondees - to help or not to help?

So one issue that has come up for discussion on more than one occasion this week is how to deal with our trainee lawyers who are out on secondment at one of our clients. This is quite a common practice in a lot of the commercial firms - basically, some of our trainees will spend one of their 6 month 'seats' at one of our major clients. They will be based in the in-house legal team and so will get exposure to a whole new environment. The problem that we have encountered this year though, is that we are getting more and more research queries from our secondees. Now on the one hand, that's great cos that's what we are here for...especially when they are out of the office and don't have access to a lot of our resources. The line that we have taken in the past is that we will assist secondees when they are on secondment, but usually just with accessing things they can't possibly do when away, eg. textbooks, certain caselaw searches....however in recent months, I have started to do quite a lot of research for one of them because he's with one of our key IP clients (I work mostly with the IP team). This has caused a little bit of consternation with the bosses, just because in theory, a lot of the research is not being done on any specialist resources....and it's for the client - therefore they are making money out of us, as opposed to if the trainee was office-based and asking us to help with research that is for a fee-earner....

So the question is - where do we draw the line? It's a really tricky one, because at the end of the day, our whole purpose is to assist the lawyers, and if a trainee is on secondent, got loads of work on and needs our help, it's very hard to say no!

It looks like the solution we are going to implement is simply to treat each secondee enquiry on a case-by-case basis....if we are pushed for time - as is the case most of the time! - and we get sent an enquiry that is time-consuming, but in theory doesn't necessitate use of textbooks and other restricted sources, then we may just give a general overview of the topic, and let the trainee extract the specific bits of info themselves - or at worse, push it back to them, giving them a few ideas of searches/places to look. Have to admit I do find it hard to say 'no' at the best of times, so it's not always the easiest thing for me to push work back to the trainees - even though sometimes it's for their own good, as they do need to learn to do their own research rather than just rely on us for everything!

But in all seriousness it's definitely an issue that I have never encountered before. I'll keep you posted on how it goes over the next few months...

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