Many private practice lawyers believe that in-house roles will save them from their discontent. For some this will be true however for others, it may prove to be an empty ideal as they may not fully understand the real reason or reasons as to why they are looking for a change.
Don’t get me wrong - there are many perks to going in-house however many lawyers who want this change are doing so for the wrong reason and before they know it, they could well find themselves falling into a deeper hole. In-house roles represent an enticing option for those who are looking to focus more on the business and the bigger picture, in addition to a variety of work, and no billable hours (yes that’s right no time sheets!). It also represents more flexibility with those opting for part time work and potentially shorter hours.However is this always the case or are you just moving from one 80 hour plus job to another 80 hour plus job?
Many lawyers may well find themselves working similar hours that they did in private practice while still having to bring work home. The remuneration may initially be very attractive however it is important to be aware that this levels out with increasing seniority, and that as a general rule of thumb the private practice sector will pay better particularly at the partner level. While the lucrative stock options which are often provided to even out this salary gap may sound attractive, do not make any assumptions in this regard and ensure you undertake the appropriate due diligence.
So what do you need to look at before deciding which career path to take? If you are already working in private practice and looking for a change, you must address what the core issues are. What is truly underlying this unhappiness – for example, is it because you really desire a change of environment and seek to move into a more commercially oriented role or is it because the partner you work for treats you poorly and you don’t get recognition for the ridiculously long hours you work?
If you have decided to go in-house, there are a number of factors you need to consider such as –
Is it a large or small company you want to work for? A small company may not necessarily give you the flexibility in the number of hours of the work as you are likely to be part of a smaller team which means greater responsibility and work-share.
What industry sector are you interested in?
What is the culture like?
Keeping in mind that many in-house organisations outsource the more complex, technical legal work to a panel of law firms, are you therefore happy to move into a more commercially facing role and be involved less on the technical black letter law front?
Are you happy to be working for one main client ie your employer rather than having various different clients?
A common way to transition into an in-house role is to be seconded to a client. This way you will be able get a taste of what it is like and be in a position to make a more well-informed decision as to whether this is the right environment for you. In addition, if you build up a strong working relationship with your client while on secondment, there is a good chance that when they decide to add to their team on a permanent basis, you will be on the top of their list.
There are many benefits to working in-house and many in-house lawyers will tell you that they have a perfect career and it was the best decision that they made. However like any matter that you work on, it is important to do your due diligence to make sure this is the right move for you.