In-house lawyers need extra stamina

PRIVATE practice lawyers, lured by the myth of shorter hours in-house, were warned that “sunlight is something of a luxury” in the banking sector.

A panel of four employed banking lawyers, speaking at a careers seminar, confirmed that drive, stamina and commitment were just as important when working in-house.

Lawyers from industry had their say, last week, at the second of the careers sessions staged by The Lawyer and recruitment consultants Robert Walters Associates.

Most agreed that being closer to business, taking on more responsibility and developing a better relationship with the client were key advantages.

Luke Talbutt, who recently joined BMI Healthcare, said he was involved in a wider range of work in-house than in private practice and he said it was easier to see how it “added value” to the business.

He also confessed that it was a relief to escape the dreaded time-sheet culture.

“I used to think that my working week was centred around having to complete a form at the end of it. That's not to say you don't have to justify how you spend your time in-house, but it's a lot less rigid.”

Vickers lawyer Suzanne Bartch advised those thinking of making the move to push for a secondment. “If you are asked in the interview why you want to leave private practice, it will enable you to give a much more credible answer.”

Marie-Anne Birken, a lawyer at Cargill, warned that “being close to the client” had its down-side. “You cannot get your secretary to tell people you are not in.”

Chairing the banking session, Peter Sherratt, European legal director for Lehman Brothers, said that private practitioners considering a move should ask themselves a fundamental question: “It's not, 'Do you want a legal career?' It's 'Do you want to join the financial services industry?”

The answer was an emphatic “yes” from panel members Roland Burley, of Morgan Stanley, Kleinwort Benson's Natalie Blyth and Jennifer Creamer of UBS, who all agreed that you are “not just a lawyer” when you switch to banking.

“You use much more than just your knowledge of the law,” said Blyth, who works in corporate finance.

She said the key requirements for the job were numeracy, stamina and persistence, and being able to market the company's products. The advantages were “a more attractive financial package”, variety and opportunity and “responsibility from day one”.

Burley, who works in Morgan Stanley's equity division, said that sunlight was a luxury, money was “a bonus” and languages were an asset.