find the latest legal job
Corporate and Commercial Partner
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Full time · Join a leading Adelaide commercial law firm
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Sydney NSW
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
Legal Inhouse / Lawyer / Company Secretary
Category: Other | Location: Brisbane QLD 4000
· Fantastic Company · Potential to be Part Time / Flexible Work Pattern
View details
Infrastructure Lawyer/SA
Category: Construction Law | Location: Sydney CBD, Inner West & Eastern Suburbs Sydney NSW
· Global elite law firm · Dedicated Infrastructure team
View details
How to play corporate crossover

How to play corporate crossover

Paul Garth

Paul Garth reports on what private practice lawyers need to consider before making a move in-house 

One of the most common questions I am asked by junior- to mid-level lawyers is if, when and how they should cross over to the other side for an in-house role.

The answer, of course, to each of those questions is different for every individual – but, having worked with lawyers making this decision for more than a decade, this is my top-line advice for those considering the move.


Clearly define your goals
Start with a consideration of your career goals and a look at what gets you out of bed in the morning. For most, this won’t go beyond wanting good work with good people. For some, it will be quite specific.

Depending on the role and your goals, sometimes a move to in-house can put you further away from the goals, while a move to another firm or a reassessment and adjustment in your current role can put you further down the path to where you would like to be. Other times, it is obvious that an in-house role would be much more suitable to your aspirations. Identifying your goals means you will have a clearer view if a move makes sense for you.


Be realistic about how much you still have to learn
One of the questions often asked is: when is the right time? A very simplistic answer is, when the right opportunity comes along. That said, in my experience those who get greater longevity out of their in-house careers tend to make the move only when they have completed a solid base of training within private practice. This tends to be at least four years, often more.

The reasons are many, but include the inability of a smaller in-house team to focus on technical training. In an in-house role you can become very commercial, but your technical development can slow significantly. In addition, a successful in-house lawyer has to be fast, but they also have to be right! A great technical base obviously plays into this.

One more reason is that two- to-three-year lawyers tend to get hired in-house simply to look after contracts, or maybe put together a suite of standard-form agreements the business can roll out, negotiate some lease variations, and the like. This is limiting work in the long run and far from the generalist role that will lead to a GC position. All of this can, of course, be negated if the opportunity is simply too good to ignore.


Talk to people you know and trust
When the time is right, start the process with planning and research. Talk to anyone you know (and trust to keep it discreet) who has a view of in-house work. Find out how they found the transition. What was surprising, difficult, disappointing, etc? Talk to them about the significant differences such as what it is like becoming a cost to the business as opposed to a revenue source. It is an important position to understand. You are in some respects still a service provider within the business, but more than that you must become a manager once you move in-house and you must manage the risk within the business.


Identify your target sector
Next, think carefully about the different sectors and industries. Often your area of specialisation will drive you in a particular direction. However, in the ideal world you would choose an industry you liked.

You will have more chance of success if you want to get to know the business. You will ask questions, find out how it works, become a subject matter expert and be seen within the business as someone who gets it, as GC material.


Cover all bases
Armed with your new knowledge and research, start your search. Spread your net as widely as you can, while naturally keeping your search discreet. Engage recruiters, by all means, but also be proactive yourself by keeping an eye on job boards, networking at industry functions and having coffee with people in your networks.

The broader you can afford to look geographically, the more opportunities will come your way. Doing all of this will cover the market and will ensure you are controlling all the variables you can.


Paul Garth (pictured) is a director at executive search firm GRMSearch.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

How to play corporate crossover
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Nov 24 2017
Demand lifts in 2017/18 for short-term finance to cover crises
Promoted by NWC Finance. The first five months of the 2017-18 financial year have seen unpreceden...
LCA welcomes religious freedom panel
Nov 24 2017
LCA welcomes religious freedom panel
The Law Council of Australia says the establishment of a panel which will examine the human right to...
Law Society launched a new website, legal politics and lawmaking
Nov 24 2017
Law Society launches project to engage young Aussies
The Law Society of NSW has launched a new website to engage young Australians in legal politics and ...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...