‘Will doing both a client and international secondment impact my chances of being kept on as an NQ?’

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Future City trainee needs advice

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one soon-to-be City trainee has concerns that doing both a client and international secondment will have a detrimental impact on their chances of being retained upon qualification.

“I am soon to start my TC at a large City firm that offers both international and client secondments. I’d ideally like to experience both, if given the chance, but that would effectively mean only 12 out of 24 months of my TC were actually spent working in the firm’s office in London. I would of course be gaining valuable experience either way, but I’m a bit worried that perhaps by doing this I wouldn’t be as ‘visible’ to the partners and associates who will ultimately be my main colleagues in the future.

“Do you think doing both a client and international secondment could create any qualms re. my commitment to the firm / its London office in the partners’ eyes, especially when it comes to NQ retention decisions?

“I’d appreciate advice from anyone who has completed both during their TC, and how their supervisors / grad rec partners reacted, etc.”

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I find it unlikely that they would let you do this. Most firms have one ‘secondment’ seat – usually the fourth seat in the training contract.

Grad rec

Agreed 👆🏼

Actus Dontcarus

I know a trainee who did 3 secondments in total and still got retained. Really depends on the firm and your luck, i guess.

Bitter associate

Yeah there’s no chance you’re getting both

Karate kid

Are you the same bloke who wants to take his missus?


I think it would hinder your chances purely from a percentage basis, the more seats you do at the firm the more likely you are to a) make connections and get good internal PR and b) find a department you like and likes you back.

Depends if you care about being retained at this specific firm or whether you just want an interesting CV for the NQ lateral market. If it’s the latter then go for it, you’ll be able to say you have client exposure through being in-house and have some interesting stories from living overseas. If you love the firm and want to stay as an NQ, maybe just do one.

Brizzie 🍗

The more seats you do, the more likely you are to find an area of law you genuinely enjoy and a team that’s decent. That’s incredibly important because it can make the difference between you dropping out at 1-2 PQE out of boredom/understimulation and you staying on and having a long career in law (in some capacity).

Also please do keep in mind that you can always do a secondment as an associate. Even the firms that don’t really offer trainee secondments bombard their associates with them. I’d say that it’s the norm for US/MC firm senior associates to have done an overseas or client secondment at some stage of their career.


Doing both would take you out of the office a lot, seems risky in terms of profile.

Client secondments can be a good chance to show a department how keen you are by effectively doing their kind of work twice, once in the team and once in-house. This is particularly the case for some finance seats or commercial.

International less likely to be beneficial unless you go to an office which has particularly strong pipelines of swapped work with the London team you want to qualify into.


As someone who spent 18 months of their TC stuck in my spare bedroom WFH, I would have jumped at the chance of going abroad. Go somewhere sunny for 6 months, have a blast, come back and grind out.

Why spend 6 months in a London office office of a client down the road when you could spend 6 months sunning in Qatar earning and (sun-)burning.

Big mall in desert

I would rather spend 5 years in Blackpool than a week in Qatar, so no thank you.


Lmao you’re so clueless little man, it’s rather amusing. 😀 😀 😀


Certain firms such as CMS offer secondments in better locations. I think they still offer Rio de Janeiro – a superb place for a trainee to spend 6 months.


Lmaoooo p*ss off


Do it. Go abroad, preferably someplace warm and pleasant, and have a good time.

Then upon your return to London you’ll also soon realise just what an utterly miserable, overtaxed, low-value, low-quality of life sh*thole this sorry island is, and you can finally decamp to the luscious, lucrative and always warm shores of Dubai.

All income is net, taxation is theft.

Live it and love it my friend. Your life will never be the same.




wasn’t me guv, honest !


But do also bear in mind that you will be stuck with brain-dead dorks fit only for a sandy backwater.


*laughs in £200,000 net annual salary* 😂


I think you should examine very carefully why you’re interested in doing these secondments. Do you have a clear narrative you can sell to partners/HR as to how doing both will make you a better lawyer in a particular area which you’re committed to, and which you know you’re intending to qualify into? Or do you just want to experience both because they’re interesting things to do (which they absolutely are)?

For example, if you know that you want to qualify into your firm’s M&A department, then doing a foreign seat in something transactional and then an in-house secondment to a big PE client of your firm is an excellent idea – it’ll make you a better associate, and is something which would probably commend you to the people making recruitment decisions.

On the other hand if you’re keen to become (say) a disputes lawyer, and you do a secondment working in a Singapore project finance office, followed by six months working at a TMT corporate client, then not only will you have wasted two seats which you could have used doing something disputes-aligned, but you will also have wasted opportunities to try areas of law which you might also be interested in which can only be done in your “home” office.

So basically, only do it if you have a very clear idea of how it’ll help your long-term career. A six month spell in Dubai or HK is fun (and six months at a client tends to be a very relaxed stint – I did a client secondment, had a great time, and clocked off at 6pm every day) but you’re going to be a lawyer for a long time hopefully, so make sure you don’t jeopardise things for yourself.


Trainee secondments are largely a waste of time. If you’re serious about your career, do four seats in practice areas you are interested in and actually learn something about them, rather than burning time in a jurisdiction in which you will never work for jollies.

Stevie Nicks

But Eve Cornwell did one and she’s a NQ at Links, can’t be all bad.


Sometimes it isn’t about what you know, it is about who you


The only thing that matters for qualification is whether a department wants you back. If you have a great first seat and they definitely want you back then you have a qualification option and it doesn’t really matter what else you do from then on (as long as you don’t fuck up the rest of your TC). If you don’t have a certain qualification option though then it’s a bad move to go away. That’s it really.

One secondment trainee

This is the best answer. I would also add, it depends on how your other two proposed seats go. I did my first seat somewhere I definitely didn’t want to qualify and the second in one I did.

My first seat was weirdly quiet, and I didn’t get as much experience / make enough connections as I think I would have needed to qualify into that area. If I’d wanted to do that long term, I think I would have needed another seat in a transactional area to make up for it.

My second seat I was super busy, made lots of contacts, and got really good feedback. I felt at the end of the seat that I could qualify into that area, so it made choosing to go on secondment (just the once, in my case) an easier decision!

Perhaps consider which secondment you would prefer to do, and build your “strategy” around that. Then if you have a good reason to do a second and feel you can still qualify at the firm, you can try for another.

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