Caution advised for in-house lawyers looking to make private practice switch

By Emma Ryan|04 June 2019

With a switch between in-house and private practice becoming increasingly common, a new report has identified what lawyers in the corporate sphere need to be wary of before making the move.

According to Mahlab’s latest Roundtable Briefing, there are an increasing number of senior in-house legal professionals electing to return to private practice, citing career advancement opportunities and increased remuneration as among their key motivators. 

“Many lawyers in today’s legal landscape commence their careers in private practice and then, once they’ve reached a certain level of experience, take their career in-house and challenge themselves in a corporate environment where they can escape billable hours, work closely and as part of an organisation, and contribute to its strategic direction,” said Mahlab’s managing directors Lisa Gazis (NSW) and Katherine Sampson (VIC).

Despite the willingness, however, the duo warned there are factors that need to be considered before moving to private practice, with lawyers advised to prepare for a re-adjustment period to law firm life. 

A big factor that needs to be considered is that they’ll need to work on smaller parts of a transaction, rather than from start to finish, according to Ms Gazis and Ms Sampson. Missing the collaboration of in-house and instead being content to work independently is another key thing to prepare for, they said.

Lawyers should also be prepared to face “internal politics and frustrations with the partnership model”, the duo added, as well as having to deal with providing less input into policy and key decision making.

Being paid to “do” rather than being paid to “think” is also part of the adjustment, according to Ms Gazis and Ms Sampson.

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“Ultimately, lawyers must make the right decision for them given their unique set of motivations, whether that be career progression, professional development or personal reasons,” they said.

Caution advised for in-house lawyers looking to make private practice switch
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