With Kenneth Willis, consultant, Randstad Legal
A: The best place to spend your formative years as a lawyer is generally in a law firm, where you have large numbers of colleagues to learn from and be guided by on a daily basis. If your current position is making you unhappy, this can generally be remedied by moving to a more evenly-structured team in a law firm. In-house teams tend to have a lean structure so you will need to be comfortable working with autonomy and without the collegiality of several lawyers.
In-house is increasingly seen as an easy alternative to private practice or a means to escape the typical pressures of working in a law firm, such as long hours and the billable hour. In-house legal teams and lawyers within government departments increasingly record their time. Working with multinational in-house legal teams can be very exciting but can also mean running on US or European time. The pressure to complete a large deal can act as a motivator, so if you are a very transactional lawyer a move in-house may disappoint if you discover that all the biggest deals are given to external lawyers to complete.
You may want to get a taste of working within a business by means of secondment.
Opportunities for this may be available within your firm and an experienced recruiter who knows your market can advise you as to which firms offer in-house stints to their lawyers.
Moving in-house is ideal for those with strong commercial acumen who have decided that they want to continue to practice law by working directly within a business rather than becoming a partner of a law firm.