This has resulted in high-calibre lawyers looking to move in-house earlier in their career. Although still less common than mid-senior level roles, junior in-house positions are coming up more frequently. This can be due to the need for cost reduction by replacing a more senior lawyer who exits the business with a junior.
It can also be to balance out teams that are top heavy in order that the structure allows for all levels of work and for career development. This is happening more often as there have been less senior roles in the market in recent times; meaning lawyers are staying longer in their current roles.
The hesitation that some general counsel have in taking someone too junior is obviously technical competence (given the relative lack of support) and in ensuring that the candidates have the maturity and commerciality to make a success of the role. It is also more difficult to prove that you fully understand the sometimes challenging reality of working in-house if you don’t have existing in-house or secondment experience.
So the best advice I can give is to ensure that you fully understand the role. I spoke with a third year lawyer we recently placed in-house and she had undertaken secondments from her clerkship programme onward and had enjoyed high levels of client contact. She had achieved this by pro-actively seeking these opportunities and choosing the right group where the structure allowed for it. How you present and communicate is also very important at a junior level, so interacting with clients or conducting presentations can really help you polish your interpersonal skills.
Junior in-house roles will always be less common, but they do exist, so be confident and focus on preparing to give yourself the best opportunity. Also, don’t be disheartened if it takes time, as you are making yourself more marketable as your experience develops. Equally, don’t necessarily jump at the first role if you are not convinced it is quite right or will take you where you want to go, you have a long career ahead of you!