Mirror, mirror on the wall, who makes the fairest in-house counsel of them all? It's competitive in-house, and lawyers should know exactly what's involved, writes Phillip Hunter.
A common misconception by private practice lawyers is that in-house provides excellent work/life balance. The reality shows that the demands and expectations on counsel are intensifying and you can only expect the same, if not more, pressure to perform and provide high quality advice and leadership.
Most black-letter lawyers don't make suitable in-house counsel, but why? Although technical skills are important, being able to provide timely, concise and proactive advice is equally as important to the business when meeting company deadlines and objectives.
With regards to CLE, career development and progression, be prepared to move roles to gain the promotion, increase in responsibility and in most cases salary. Traditionally in-house has paid little attention to lawyers' educational requirements, leaving counsel to lag behind their private practice counterparts that take this for granted. As for the dream GC role, there can only ever be one GC, which exacerbates the need to move on.
When hiring, companies seek lawyers with particular specialisations, therefore being a master of one (or two) areas of law is far more desirable than the 'jack-of-all-trades' lawyer. Litigation lawyers historically find it harder to make the transition; areas of interest to corporates are general corporate, employment law and commercial areas such as IP or IT.
In a firm you have many clients and are once removed. The nature of work that in-house counsel handle can be seen as repetitive and at times not overly challenging. In addition, as you sit with the business there is no escaping the 'client'. Many lawyers overlook the impact of their position as a strategic business advisor.
"Queen, you are full fair, 'tis true, but Snow White is fairer than you" - so how do you compare to the competition? Here are a few key questions to ask yourself before taking the leap:
- Do my skills and experience match the job description?
- Am I commercially-minded?
- Can I build efficient and effective internal relationships?
- Will this suit my career aspirations?
So ... Hi Ho, Hi Hum, its off to work we go.
Phillip Hunter is a consultant with Naiman Clarke Legal