Corporate Law

New BigLaw Job: Lend-an-Associate

An innovative perk being offered to favored clients by a small but growing number of law firms can also provide big benefits to associates.

So-called secondments—essentially, a loan of an associate to work onsite for a client for a period that often lasts for months—are growing in popularity with major U.S. law firms. Such arrangements have long been customary among their U.K. counterparts seeking to cement client loyalty, reports the National Law Journal in an article reprinted by New York Lawyer (reg. req.).

A secondment allows the client company to get the benefit of the associate’s work, at significantly less cost than what would be paid to the firm at ordinary billable-hour rates, the legal newspaper explains. “Generally, the law firm continues to pay the associate, with the client sometimes providing housing or a set stipend to cover expenses.”

Meanwhile, the associate gains valuable expertise in the client’s business and an understanding of the client’s needs, which helps the law firm provide better legal services. And the arrangement also can help solidify a close relationship among counsel and client personnel that promotes long-term loyalty to the law firm

Potential conflicts of interest can be a problem, and need to be taken into account. Also, the arrangement can be so successful that it results in an offer of in-house employment to the associate. That is, however, “usually a good thing,” says Jim Quinn, the co-chair of global litigation at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, because the firm still benefits from a continued good relationship with its former associate.

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