Moving back to private practice after 11 years in-house
After working in-house for over a decade, this BigLaw partner decided to move back to private practice – a move he said has come with many challenges and opportunities.
Jeremy Hanrahan is a partner at Lander & Rogers in the workplace relations and safety team. Speaking on a recent episode of The Lawyers Weekly Show, Mr Hanrahan reflected on his transition back to private practice after a long stint in-house and the challenges within the workplace legal space right now.
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Before going to Lander & Rogers 12 months ago, Mr Hanrahan was in-house for 11 years, as group head of industrial relations at Lendlease – and has had fairly equal experience both working in-house and in private practice, having worked at MinterEllison for 10 years prior to moving in-house.
While making the move back to private practice wasn’t an easy one, Mr Hanrahan said he felt like he had “done everything” he could in his in-house role.
“Eleven years is a long time in one organisation. Do I go back to another in-house role, do I jump back to private practice? And I remember when I left Minters, usually the way people go is private practice to in-house, not often the other way. But I’d had a few other colleagues who had left Lendlease and they had raved about going back into private practice and how different it was from when we were there as junior lawyers, senior associates,” he said.
“So, I sort of then opened my horizons to maybe not just look at in-house roles, look at firms that might have the right culture, the right support, particularly for someone who really is coming back in without a practice in the sense of clear client book, clear financials. Just a lot of connections and a lot of networking. Which firms would be a supportive and nurturing fit?”
Despite coming back to private practice with no clients of his own, Mr Hanrahan said that working intimately inside a business has been “resonating” for clients.
“Speaking to these colleagues who’ve done the same thing, when we talk about it in terms of business development and selling our expertise and capability, there is a real resonance when you can talk to a client and say, look, I’ve been in the trenches with you. I know exactly what drivers in your organisation you need to manage,” he explained.
“Whether it be CEOs, general counsels, heads of HR, operations, people, government relations, finance, payroll. I’ve done what you’re doing, I’ve been in the trenches with you so I can think like you and I can solve problems like you. And that’s not to disparage people who’ve only ever been in private practice, but I find that really resonates with clients and that they go, okay, well, this guy has stood in my shoes and walked in my shoes before, so gets the type of advice and support I need.”
Having been at Lander & Rogers for a year now, Mr Hanrahan said the workplace team was an excellent choice for him, as the 15-partner and 50-lawyer strong team provides an excellent culture and support network.
“It is challenging in the sense that it’s a very competitive, mature, legal market and you can have lots and lots of network and lots and lots of contacts, but you’ve got to constantly be delivering, being out there doing business development. Not being a pest, but staying in the frame and being persistent. And it’s just chipping away and making sure people remember you in the frame. And then when that opportunity, that window comes, when someone gives you a crack, you jump at it, nothing’s too difficult and you deliver and then off you go,” he added.
“But it’s a hard grind as a partner, building a practice and maintaining a practice and always staying on your game and then also as a leader as well as senior associates and lawyers. And I hope, and I think I am imparting my experience and background on the team at Landers in how I think and how I approach legal problems with a bit of a different mindset. To someone who’s only ever been in private practice and maybe hasn’t had that experience of being in an organisation.”
There are also a number of challenges within this space keeping workplace lawyers on their toes.
“There’s just so much going on, like going back decades. The amount of regulation and legislation and requirements in the workplace space and companies keeping on top of it is very, very challenging. Whether it be through respect at work and sexual harassment in the workplace, through psychosocial hazards and risks under workplace health and safety legislation, to the myriad of changes in industrial relations and employment law, around enterprise bargaining, around fixed-term contracts,” Mr Hanrahan concluded.
“There’s just such a whole heap of legislative change going on in regulatory reform, that keeping on top of it is very difficult for people working in organisations. And that obviously creates a great opportunity for lawyers like me to come in and be able to provide an offering that assists them in navigating all these changes.
“[But] in the employment space and the workplace space of the topic, you’re dealing with the broad variety, from whether you’re working on a safety incident through to a respect at work audit, through to enterprise bargain negotiations, through to a workplace investigation, the breadth and variety of work in this space and the human element, too, that you’re dealing with people and people issues. So, it’s always interesting, it’s never dull or dry.”
The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Jeremy Hanrahan, click below: