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A few large law firms have been arranging secondments — short-term contracts under which companies “borrow” an outside lawyer for a few weeks to a year or more — for years, particularly as a service to overseas clients who are more familiar with the practice. But as corporate law departments continue to face budget pressures, more GCs, along with their outside counsel, are taking a closer look at arranging their own secondments.

How does this sound as a way to shore up some of your in-house staffing needs? Start by bringing on a new attorney and working with her for up to a year — with your only expense being the lawyer’s salary. It also might help to know that the lawyer comes straight to you from a well-regarded law firm that you’ve been working with on a regular basis. And at the end of the year, the lawyer will return to her firm, armed with firsthand experience of your company’s legal and business needs and, therefore, better able to improve the firm’s service to you.

That might sound like a too-good-to-be-true arrangement for law departments constantly looking for ways to maximize the value they receive from their outside firms. But it’s a reality for companies that take advantage of “secondments” — short-term contracts under which they borrow an outside lawyer for anywhere from a few weeks to a year or more. The lawyer, typically an experienced associate, takes on the duties comparable to any other newly-hired in-house lawyer. While the company generally pays the attorney’s salary, it avoids the overhead expenses attached to an outside lawyer. While some companies pick up the cost of benefits beyond the lawyer’s salary, others save on that score as well.

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