Whatever your reasons might be for considering a move in-house, it is necessary to first check your career goals and then look at some of the differences between being in a private practice role and working in-house. To help you, listed below are some of the factors that you should think about before you take any action.
If you are practising in-house, then in this region (East Anglia) your pay may be more (possibly significantly more) than your private practice friends. However, generally, your private practice friends have higher earning potential overall if they are on-track to become an equity partner. Not all lawyers in private practice, however, become equity partners – either by choice or circumstance.
In-house benefits packages are generally higher overall than what is on offer in private practice. For example, some in-house legal counsels enjoy having benefits such as company cars, significant pension schemes, significant bonuses and/or the option to buy shares and enhanced maternity/paternity pay.
If you move in-house, you may find you progress more quickly – to a general counsel or head of legal role – with a very good salary and package to match (typically at, or above, the rate of a well-paid salaried partner). In-house lawyers tend to work in flat legal teams, and unlike a law firm, there tends to be just one or two levels (counsel and general counsel/head of legal) making progression quite likely early in your career – often within 2-3 years.
As an in-house lawyer, you may find you obtain expertise in other areas of law; you’re more likely to be a generalist rather than a specialist. You’re also more likely to become a general manager and some in-house counsel take up additional management courses – such as an MBA. The longer you remain outside of private practice, the more your work may diversify in more than one practice area and include general managerial duties.
Unlike a private practice lawyer, if you work in-house for an organisation, you are likely to see what the impact of your advice has in practice. To some lawyers, this is particularly attractive and results in improved job satisfaction.
Billing and time recording
As an in-house lawyer, you are very unlikely to have the same time recording and billing pressures as you would have in private practice.
Quality of life
In private practice, it can be common for lawyers to miss important events because of work matters – for example, having to cancel or amend family holiday arrangements and work throughout the weekend or evening to finalise deals, attend court or prepare documents by a deadline. In-house lawyers tend not to have to cancel their arrangements outside of work on a regular basis and for those with outside interests or a family, they may enjoy a satisfactory or good work/life balance.
As an in-house lawyer, it is very unlikely you will build up contacts and relationships nor build up a following of clients/a portable book of business in the same way some private practice lawyers can. However, some in-house lawyers can and do have such a good relationship with their organisation, that upon leaving to return to private practice, their former organisation instructs them as an external lawyer.
If you have aspirations to be an equity partner in the long-term, staying or going in-house may cause you to reach equity partnership in your career much later than you otherwise could have achieved. There is an opportunity cost to going in-house if equity partner is your long-term career aspiration.
If you would like to discuss some of the above points further, please contact Olsen Recruitment on 01603 516261 or 07960 743650 anytime, including outside of working hours.