Over recent years, we have certainly seen a trend of more lawyers returning to private practice after periods spent in-house.
The reasons for this vary. From an employee’s perspective, perceived career opportunity and increasing flexibility offered by law firms are often cited. From an employer’s perspective, as the private practice market becomes more and more competitive, law firms are increasingly attracted to the potential of leveraging strong client relationships that in-house lawyers may have.
Clients are also increasingly attracted by working with private practice lawyers who have actual in-house experience, relevant industry knowledge and know what they are actually looking for from external counsel.
In order to make the move a reality, it is essential that you play to your strengths and focus your search on firms you know, (a) have an existing strength in the industry sector in which you operate, or (b) have growth plans within your industry sector. In-depth research in relation to specific firms, teams and partners who you believe may most benefit from your experience will be key.
In terms of presenting your experience, it is important that you highlight both your industry and technical experience. Your industry experience should be fairly obvious, but make sure that you are able to demonstrate real depth of expertise that you will be able to bring to the firm and which will be attractive to potential clients. Your technical expertise is critical – you will need to highlight specific matters that you have handled, discuss your level of autonomy and also the level of reliance you have placed on external counsel.
The point is that, while law firms will be attracted to in-house lawyers with relevant industry experience and potential clients, they are unlikely to hire a lawyer who isn’t able to demonstrate that they are able to operate at a similar level of technical expertise as the existing team.
In summary, while the move back to private practice is not always straightforward, it is very possible and, if carefully targeted, can prove to be incredibly fruitful for lawyer and law firm alike.