Making the Move from a Law Firm to an In-House Practice

Office Chair and Box Containing Personal EffectsDo you have the itch to take a look at in-house opportunities? In-house employment has its own set of rules, and in-house opportunities are as varied as law firm practices. They range from the solo General Counsel who wears many hats to large, highly specialized groups that are sometimes larger than major law firms. When it comes to in-house options, there is a lot to learn!

Private practitioners often have misconceptions when it comes to in-house practice. One of the most common is the thought that in-house roles offer a slower pace, less demanding schedule and a better quality of life. While some of those improvements may be found by making a move, an in-house practice is not necessarily less demanding. Recent in-house converts usually share their joy at leaving the billable hour behind, but they are also quick to comment that they traded their timekeeping duties for a sometimes unwieldy to-do list. In-house pressures center on making a business work. Those pressures motivate many, especially attorneys who have always wanted to play a more active role in business.

The perception of in-house roles has changed drastically over the years, and in-house positions are now among the most coveted in the legal community. Companies have changed the way they view in-house counsel, bringing their lawyers into the thick of the business. Many General Counsels also wear VP hats. They are serving as business people while also managing legal teams.

Making the move from a firm to an in-house practice requires specific preparation. In-house practice has its own hierarchy with more steps than the law firm partnership track. Higher-level in-house positions frequently require previous in-house experience. An ideal time to make the first move in-house is anywhere from 3 to 7 years of practice. This schedule allows plenty of time to make the natural progression through the in-house hierarchy. With that said, attorneys beyond 7 years in practice, can certainly still pursue in-house options.

When interviewing for an in-house position, keep in mind that the in-house team is comprised of attorneys who have already made the decision to practice in-house. Those attorneys understand a desire to make the move, so there is no need to be apologetic about a decision to leave law firm life. Be wary of expressing a desire to make a “quality of life” change, however. While it may be a legitimate reason, it is not what most hiring attorneys want to hear. Focus on positive reasons for making a change, like finding a position that will allow devotion to one client and the opportunity to be an integral part of a business team.

Conducting a careful in-house search can lead to a rewarding long-term in-house career. Be patient while considering options, and best of luck in making a positive change!

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