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Changing hats for in-house

Changing hats for in-house

Alternative job opportunities might be a bit thin on the ground at the moment, but when the market swings, many are predicting a wave of people movement, not only in the legal sector but across…

Alternative job opportunities might be a bit thin on the ground at the moment, but when the market swings, many are predicting a wave of people movement, not only in the legal sector but across the economy.

However lawyers thinking of a change of scene - a move from in-house into private practice or vice versa - would be advised to rethink their interview strategy.

According to Kirsty Spears, manager of Hughes Castell in Sydney, private practice employers are looking for quite different attributes and skills in their new recruits than corporate employers seeking in-house talent, and she believes it largely comes down to the greater commercial focus required of in-house lawyers.

"One of the things we find when we're recruiting in-house roles is that the client will be much more concerned with [lawyers'] softer skills. So their client management and internal communication skills, their powers of persuasion and influence, how they deal with non-lawyers and how they get their message across - those sorts of things," she said. "Whereas when we're recruiting for private practice, it tends to be more about [lawyers'] technical ability and the quality of the experience that they've had - usually the firm or the partner than they've worked for.

She also believed that law firms give more weight to academic credentials. "In-house [employers] very rarely ask about their academic achievements, whereas law firms inevitably do," she said.

Spears said that law firms were increasingly focussing on the need for lawyers to have commercial acumen, and that while the commercial/technical distinction was not as clear-cut as it once was, it was still quite evident. "That distinction is blurred a lot more these days, and there's a lot of focus [in private practice] on giving commercial solutions to clients, but [in an in-house role] you would be expected to do that a lot further down the food chain than in private practice."

- Zoe Lyon

>> For the latest news, views and analysis of issues affecting in-house lawyers, check out Lawyers Weekly's dedicated in-house site www.lawyersinhouse.com.au

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