Revealed: two-thirds of solicitors would take in-house role

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  • As a lawyer in private practice who has had a couple of stints in house I was surprised how little mention is made in this article ofwhat I think are the two key negatives of working in house.
    Firstly (and especially in small in house teams) there is pretty much no clear career progression. Unless you come in at GC level you can end up stuck doing the same job year in year out with the remote possibility that you will either some day make it to GC level (i.e. by attrition) or move laterally.
    Secondly, in house legal teams (along with risk and compliance) are ancillary functions. The amount spent on them is not clearly reflected in increased business and they are therefore often regarded by core business operations as a waste of money. This can get a bit depressing at times - at least in PP you are the central focus of the business.

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  • It's no surprise that working in-house is seen as preferable to being in private practice.
    The truth is that for most people it is.
    The work tends to be more enjoyable. The lure of private practice was career progression - but since the recession that's all but disappeared for promising associates.

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  • As somebody who has recently moved from private practice into an in-house role I have to say that I agree with the anonymous comment made at 2.10 pm. I did not come in at GC level and there is little chance for me to do something else. Also I am a bolt-on supplying a service that is required but that does not earn money (at least not at first sight). Both of it is frustrating for anybody with ambitions. On the plus side, the stress is lower and there are less sleepless nights.

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  • Before leaping at the benefits of the in-house lifstyle, think carefully about how much you'd actually enjoy having to bath your kids every single night. You would? You say that now but really??

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  • @ anonymous 2.10 and 3.39 I only partly agree with the diversity of work point - I guess it must all depends on your organisation's size - having worked for a multinational company for over 3 years I' ve really enjoyed the close-to-the ground and business oriented kind of work I did as a legal counsel, bringing in finance, human resources, general management, contract management... in terms of disciplines I found this eventually much more diverse and open-minded than what some associate may do in some multinational law firms... Also I really enjoyed working with people having a different background and mindset than lawyers, and thanks to them you also learn a lot about the world as is. Nonetheless i reckon that for someone who enjoy developing their own business, making its own marketing, networking to get the job etc the legal counsel position may be frustrating after a while. On the other hand I found the business people were for most of them very smart and knowledgeable about the law there're in touch with and when you've gained their trust they want to bring you every second day to a contract negotiation, some meeting about a pending claim etc and eventually you can be very much involved into the company's business and people can acknowledge your value added in terms of risk management, avoiding an open-ended drift in contract margins etc, and even you may play a crucial role on investment decisions, the business organisation, the dismissal of a particular guy etc. That might even be compulsory to go in-house for a little while. And this helps me a lot now in my current relationships with clients, at least i feel like I am speaking a language closer to them, free of lawyers' standard 'non edible' speech made of thousands of references to regulations very few care about at the end, as if they needed something to hang to and were afraid to go beyond this to give some real piece of advice... No just the usual 'you can't do this' we hear too often from the legal industry but a more positive 'you can'.

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  • Bob Job is not considering the refreshing alternative of a pint or three with your collegiate workmates, or similarly placed friends, at 5:30pm. Is that not how working life was meant to be lived?

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  • Private practice or in-house? There are other alternatives for those solicitors wanting to develop their career, especially those who want to feel more in control of their own destiny.
    Changes in the marketplace are opening up new, different and exciting opportunities. For example it has never been easier than now to own your own law practice perhaps through a franchise such as face2face solicitors.

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  • Plug much, Michael?

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  • "Firstly (and especially in small in house teams) there is pretty much no clear career progression. Unless you come in at GC level you can end up stuck doing the same job year in year out with the remote possibility that you will either some day make it to GC level (i.e. by attrition) or move laterally. "
    Going in house means embracing the business culture. Part of this means building relationships; taking initiative; networking; and being pushing yourself into teams and projects in order to influence and convey your legal points. Being an in house lawyer is as much about inlufencing as it is about black letter law. The emphasis on influencing, and the related skill set, is not as great in law firms. And so my points are....
    1. If you are a purely a technician but perhaps lack dynamism or the ability to adapt/interface then question whether your career in house will progress. Technicians are very useful in house but they often get stuck because they lack the skillset to push themselves forward. Whereas in law firms you have the old "Backroom lawyers" who get delivered work from the "Golf course lawyers". Many "Backroom lawyers" make excellent Partners in law firms. Occassionally, they make General Counsel in house.
    2. Golf course lawyers come on down. In house is for you. There are plenty of quasi legal roles for you to step into and you won't cower in the corner waiting to be asked for a different role. If nobody asks you then you have the skill set to move on into a better role in another company (again without fear). In house lawyers can fill a multiude of roles from Director of HR, Head of Health & Safety, Company Secretary; Director of Regulatory; Head of Commercial & Business Affairs; right up to CEO (although the latter most often happens in US and not EU companies).
    Many functions require legal knowledge but the point about moving in house is that you retrain to become not just a lawyer but a business person. Any in house lawyer who doesn't adopt this "retraining" mindset is going to get stuck. You can still be a lawyer, do law, and do other things. You don't have to wait to fill a GC role. But, in any event, a GC has a more varied skill set than being just a lawyer. And perhaps those folks who haven't made GC - and don't think that they will ever make GC - haven't understood that.

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  • @ anonymous 2.10 - All legal teams, whether in-house or private practice, are ancilliary. The law does not exist in a vacuum.

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  • In-house is in many ways preferable to private practice. The quality of work is often as challenging, the pay can be attractive and even better, ones' colleagues tend not to have personality disorders.

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