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

More than 65 per cent of private practice solicitors would consider moving into an in-house role, a survey by The Lawyer reveals today.

Andrew Lilley
Andrew Lilley

The poll of 2,549 lawyers, including 1,317 in private practice, carried out earlier this year shows that 68.5 of solicitors at law firms would be open to a move in-house, with the figure rising to 80 per cent for associates.

The data also shows that in-house moves are not just for associates and lawyers with a record of jumping jobs. A total of 54 per cent of partners would consider an in-house role, while more than half of solicitors open to such a switch are not serial movers and have been in the same post for four or more years.

It points to a sizeable shift in the perception of in-house roles in the past five years on the back of a number of high-profile senior moves away from private practice, including Norton Rose litigation partner Peter Rees’ hire by Royal Dutch Shell last year and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer corporate partner Graham Nicholson’s transfer to the Bank of England in 2008 (1 October 2008).

One respondent to the survey commented: “The quality of many in-house lawyers is on a par with private practice – this divide between the two is an old-fashioned view.”

Travers Smith managing partner Andrew Lilley added: “It used to be the default assumption [for associates] that partnership is what you would do, but this is changing. In-house roles offer a broader range of priorities in life and a more stimulating career than perhaps 15-20 years ago.

“Many of the top in-house lawyers come from the best firms in the City and they’re there by choice, not because a door has been slammed in their face or because they haven’t been progressing in their firms.”

Frances Murphy, head of corporate at Slaughter and May, said: “This career path has developed a lot and this has changed perceptions. I’d be hard pushed now to think of a major company that didn’t have its own in-house team and many global companies have in-house teams that are larger than some law firms.”

For the full report, see this week’s cover feature. To download the full results of the survey click here.