These lawyers cite long working hours, the constant pressure of billable hours, meeting budgets, timesheets and a fiercely competitive working environment as the major drivers behind their move away from private practice. Many of these disgruntled lawyers feel underappreciated in a law firm and view a move in-house as providing a better culture and a more rewarding working environment - but is this necessarily the case?
While much will depend on the particular role and organisation you work for, an in-house career provides a different working environment to a law firm. However, an in-house role should not be viewed as simply a soft or easy option compared to private practice.
Working in-house offers its own unique set of challenges compared to private practice. While the hours are generally not as unpredictable or onerous as a law firm, so you will have some more control over your work and social life, the days are busy and constant as you sit embedded with your client.
As in-house legal teams are generally smaller than the specialist departments of a law firm, the work in-house will be more varied, ad hoc and challenging, and you will need to have a commercially-focused approach as you will be dealing directly with the business.
Perhaps the greatest attraction of a career in-house is that you will feel more rewarded; in that you will focus on a single client and see the results of your legal advice firsthand. Many private practice lawyers often feel at arm’s length from their clients and are just reacting to a particular legal problem or issue, whereas in-house you will be involved from an early stage and see the real impact of your legal work on the business.
An in-house role will provide the lawyer with a genuine feeling of collaboration that you are working closely with your internal clients on a common goal and purpose and contributing as an integral part of the business. This commercially-focused and business-facing aspect of working in-house undoubtedly contributes to a satisfying working environment for lawyers.