This week, we spoke with Canon corporate counsel Genie Kim about how her expectations of life in-house differed to what it’s actually like and how she’s navigated the switch from private practice.
How and why did you decide to make the move in-house?
I was at a point in my career that felt routine. I needed more variety and was questioning my career path. I wasn’t quite ready to give up law but wanted something different, so when a contract role for an in-house position came up I decided it would be a great opportunity to try something different, without a long-term commitment. I had always enjoyed transactional work and it offered an ideal way to test the waters.
How has in-house life differed to your expectations and/or lived up to them?
I wanted variety and certainly got it! Not only was the legal work varied, but I was also able to work across multiple divisions and different industries within our company. However, the fast pace of in-house law was not something I had expected. Coming from private practice, I was somewhat able to plan the work and my day but in-house, much of the work must be done in shorter timeframes. There have been many days where I arrive at the office with a plan, only to be greeted by an urgent email that consumes my day.
What do you like most about your current role?
I still love the variety. I also enjoy working on strategic matters with the business. Working closer with the business means you can see a concept or idea turn into projects and new products that really come alive. Being able to see the impact and results of the work is rewarding.
What are the major challenges for in-house lawyers moving forward, in your opinion?
Personally, I feel one of biggest challenges for in-house lawyers is that there are fewer mentoring and career progression opportunities compared to private practice, particularly in smaller in-house teams. There are formal mentoring programs and opportunities outside the workplace, but you miss out on the informal training and mentoring you get by simply working with a team of senior lawyers on a day-to-day basis, which I think is invaluable.
Conversely, what are the major opportunities for in-house lawyers looking ahead?
The general perception of in-house lawyers and legal teams is continuing to change for the better. There are more businesses working closer with their legal teams, understanding they are part of the business not there only to fill some compliance criteria. This increase in awareness also encourages newer technologies and opportunities for in-house lawyers. Moving in-house, we miss the resource and support you become accustomed to in private practice, but the gap is definitely narrowing.
What do you do outside of work that makes you a better lawyer when you come into the office each day?
Keeping a balance and genuinely switching off from work is important to me, but something I am still endeavouring to master. My young family definitely helps and spending time with my children forces me to keep things in perspective. Having that balance helps me stay motivated and makes work much more enjoyable.