Lawyers: Why Move In-House?
Moving in-house is a very attractive proposition for a lot of lawyers. From experience, I’d say over 80 per cent of private practice lawyers I’ve spoken with have, at the very least, thought about moving into a Legal Counsel role at some point. Almost 100 per cent have been approached about one.
So why are Legal Counsel roles so appealing to lawyers? I’ve had thousands of conversations with job seekers on this very point, and each person’s motivations are unique. That said, there are definitely a few recurring themes and motivating factors. In my experience, here’s the top five reasons lawyers want to move in-house:
- They want to be ‘closer’ to the business. In a law firm, you’ll get the opportunity to work for a number of clients. The work you’re briefed is often complex, challenging and exciting. Your advice is undoubtedly valuable to your client. But a common complaint I hear is that private practice lawyers can’t really see that advice in action. When you’re in-house, you can see the tangible, real benefits of your work happening every day. You can also (in the right role) engage in business strategy and ‘commercial’ work that a law firm may not be able to offer you.
- Diversity of workload. As an in-house lawyer, you’re exposed to a range of legal work that often spans practice areas. You could be advising on a merger, drafting an IT agreement and managing an unfair dismissal claim – all within the space of eight hours. The diversity of workload is appealing to a lot of lawyers, but it can also be a double-edged sword. If you’re moving into a Legal Counsel role for the first time, make sure that the legal team is well resourced and your General Counsel is collaborative and supportive.
- No billables. This is a big one. There’s been a lot of debate (for what seems to have been a very long time now) about the effectiveness of the billable hour in legal practice. In my experience, the majority of in-house lawyers find the lack of time recording to be refreshing. Most would argue that it actually promotes output/efficiency, quality of advice and overall job satisfaction. Not all in-house roles are completely free of time-recording though, and it’s important to know that before you accept a role.
- Building business relationships and managing stakeholder expectations. When you’re in-house, you have the advantage of being able to form relationships with your ‘client’ (i.e. your employer) every day. You’re working with the people you’re giving advice to. If you can build and maintain effective internal stakeholder relationships, it makes it a lot easier to manage expectations and competing demands. Which brings me to my next point…
- Flexibility and balance. Effective internal stakeholder management should, in turn, lead to more flexibility and balance in your role. Private practice lawyers are often subjected to tight (and unrealistic) deadlines, and competing client demands are extremely difficult to manage when Client X doesn’t really care that Client Y needs something done at the same time. If you can manage internal stakeholders well, you should also be able to manage your own time more effectively. There are exceptions to every rule and going in-house is by no means a holiday. For the most part, though, you’ll work more flexibly as an in-house lawyer.
If you’d like to know more about the in-house market, including salary information, market trends or live job opportunities, feel free to get in touch.