In-house teams eye up secondments
Corporate counsel are slowly embracing the use of short-term external lawyers to bulk up their capacity as needed.
Marcus McCarthy, general counsel of the Bloomfield Group and principal of ‘dispersed law’ group Nexus, believes secondments are a gradual but growing trend in the in-house sector.
Several lawyers operating under the Nexus umbrella offer this service.
“In-house counsel are interested but it depends on what their needs are at a given time,” he said. “I don't think they're engaging as much as they could or should.”
He believes secondments from external providers can help corporate teams boost their capacity when resources are tight.
“It allows firms to have that scale-up, scale-down capacity,” he said.
“It's the convenience factor – [legal teams] don't have to employ anyone and it's easy to get someone in if they’re rushed off their feet.”
In some cases, companies are seeking out relatively junior lawyers with commercial law firm experience for their in-house teams, he has found.
While these lawyers may be talented, the team could be left with knowledge gaps, which a secondment may be able to bridge.
“To me, there's a deficiency in the senior skill in some of the in-house teams,” Mr McCarthy said. “There are a lot of good people coming through, but I think there is a real role for a supplement senior network like ours.”
Similarly, senior teams working on unfamiliar transactions – a major M&A or construction project, for example – may seek to second a lawyer with that particular skillset.
“Even with general counsel who are very experienced, they still cannot cover off on all areas,” he said.
In terms of pricing pressure, bringing in a lawyer on secondment is often more cost effective than sending out work to an external firm, Mr McCarthy suggested.
“There is a lot of clamping down in organisations to reduce their legal spend. They are looking at providers like Nexus as a method to do that.”