Simon Allport, a partner in the corporate department at Gouldens, spent two years on secondment as an assistant secretary at the Panel on Takeovers and Mergers between 1994 and 1996.
"The opportunity for my secondment came up when I was roughly three years qualified and, at that time, it involved the usual diet of general corporate transactions," says Allport. "But I had no particular expertise and no real clue as to the areas that I wanted to specialise in. My biggest fear was that two years was an extremely long time for a secondment and that I was not sure how I'd fit in to a regulatory environment. The reality was that it was incredibly easy to slot into a working environment at the panel, where virtually all of the people there were secondees and the nature of the work was such that the two years really flew by.
"When I returned to private practice in 1996, I discovered that the biggest challenge was actually settling back in to an organisation which I'd previously worked at, and therefore felt familiar with, but where inevitably life had changed over the two-year secondment period. This was an unsettling time, when opportunities to use my new-found expertise elsewhere were rife and the temptation to do so was at its greatest. Fortunately, I gave it a little time and the benefits soon started to manifest themselves. My expertise within the particular practice area became invaluable throughout the firm and the contacts that I'd made during my time on secondment enabled me to develop my own practice – not just in public takeover work but also in general corporate finance transactions – fairly rapidly. I was made a partner in 1997 and feel that the rewards of my secondment have been considerable.
"Looking back, aside from the fact that the secondment itself was a hugely enjoyable experience, I think the biggest thing it gives you – as someone committed to a particular law firm in any event – is the opportunity to have some perspective on that firm as a result of having worked elsewhere. With the right secondment and the right people, it is a hugely beneficial experience for both the law firm and the secondee."
Study 2: London Stock Exchange
John Phillips is also a corporate partner at Gouldens. He was seconded to the London Stock Exchange for nine months, between 1992 and 1993, to work on the preparation of a new set of listing rules.
"I was just over four years qualified when I went to the Exchange," says Phillips. "The secondment opened up a whole new area of expertise and contacts for me. The firm used my time at the exchange in its marketing to good effect, and ended up securing a number of new clients as a result. My secondment was certainly a plus for me when I went for partnership in 1994 and has had an obvious benefit to the firm."