In-house counsel make up 30 per cent of the Australian legal profession, and it is important to showcase the personalities that make up that demographic. Here, we speak with legal counsel Karina Veling.
Why did you decide to make the move in-house?
I actually started my career in-house! It was never a concrete plan, but as a graduate in a competitive law firm space, I was attracted to the varied and commercial nature of in-house life.
What is it about in-house life that you prefer to private practice?
The thing that struck me most about in-house life was the concept of having one “client” and being involved in projects, matters and negotiations from start to finish. In-house roles allow you to be fully ingrained in a business, undertaking the traditional legal role of risk assessment and “worst case scenario” as well as the positive, strategic and commercial advice. I love this, and never experienced this in my private practice roles.
What has been the most challenging aspect about in-house life?
Being more than just a lawyer. You’re a trusted business adviser, expected to advise on a range of matters outside of the traditional legal issues. This is a challenge, but something that you can learn as you go (and an area law schools need to develop more!). It’s also what makes in-house life diverse, compelling and stimulating.
Are there cool opportunities on the horizon for in-house lawyers coming through the ranks?
There are some challenges coming – corporate counsel are now moving to not only be business advisers but risk, compliance and ethical gatekeepers. There is always cool change too – we are getting more involved in the proactive and strategic direction of organisations with the opportunities stretching well beyond that of a traditional lawyer.
What advice would you offer to law students and grads who are thinking about moving in-house?
Learn as much as you can outside of the law. If student have electives, choose non-legal subjects, especially ones focused on general business concepts. It always helps to have a commercial and business foundation, allowing you to better understand the drivers of your organisation and your internal clients.