What is the key difference working in-house and in a law firm...?

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  • Acutely and amusingly observed Paul! Sound advice for any prospective in-housers. Career moves are so often based on hope rather than knowledge but there are some real nuggets of insight in this blog whether you are considering a move or trying to find your feet. Read in isolation, in-house life might look a little bleak but that is doubtless down to the brevity of the blog format. Reasons to be cheerful in-house may already be familiar. Identifying with the business you work for, opportunities to manage and be managed, and an escape from billable hours targets and time sheets all spring to mind.

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  • Sally,

    Most in-housers I know still have billable hours targets and time sheets...

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  • If in-house positions still had billable hours targets and timesheets, I would not have moved. This may be the case in very large legal departments, but in small or medium-sized departments like mine, the situation is exactly as described by Paul. Manage, prioritise, reduce - and spend a lot of your time communicating, often "just" with the aim of building the trust and relationships which will allow you to excel in your job. The upsides Sally mentions, and others, more than make up for the challenges Paul lists. In addition, nothing feels more satisfying than mastering those challenges.

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  • Good points from both my anonymous correspondents. In-house departments come in as many shapes and sizes as the law firms they retain. A large in-house department may mimic aspects of a law firm, particularly if it has practice area specialists. Having the back-up of a larger organisation and peers to talk to can also smooth the transition in-house.

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  • No matter how one cuts it, in-house in the UK is by and large not a front office role. In private practice one drives revenues and hence the business. In an in-house role one supports the business.
    So it's a question of expectation management. Be at the forefront, or be back/middle office. The latter ain't all bad, certainly in terms of lifestyle. Even if one has a client, it'ds nice to be the client to someone else!

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  • Another manifestation of what the author describes is what I think of as the "funnel" effect. At a law firm you are expected to identify the broadest possible range of issues that might be associated with a transaction, case, etc. But in house counsel are pre-occupied with identifying the few key issues from that broad range which have the greatest potential impact and then prioritizing limited resources to asure that those keys are adequately addressed.

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  • Excellent article that really gets down to the essentials.
    I just wish each side understood the other better.

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  • There's also the issue of skills atrophying in-house. See this relevant story – 'Going in-house: Like a plate of lentis'
    http://hligroup.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/69/

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