When a law graduate or an attorney decides to choose between an in-house and a law firm career, obviously, the pros and cons of each option need to be understood. In a generalized fashion it might be said that in-house careers offer a better work-life balance and lesser pay, while law firm careers offer poor work-life balance coupled with higher pay.
Law firm practice needs you to be sharper and keep working harder and the money is there. However, when it comes to a comparison one can safely say that the majority of skills earned in law firm practice can be translated to suit an in-house position, but only a few of the skills of an in-house position can be successfully translated to fill the shoes of a practicing attorney in a law firm. However, your law firm connections are not always relevant when you move to an in-house position, but the relationships you developed while in-house augment your earning potential while moving to law firm practice.
However, in-house positions are not without their benefits. The pros and cons of in-house positions vis-à-vis law firm positions are as follows:
Greater feeling of job-security in in-house positions for the less competent or those who cannot afford the time and effort needed to acquire relevant level of competence, and for such persons, greater feeling of insecurity in law firms.
In in-house positions, you don't need to sell yourself every day. Your employer is your permanent client and you've got a captive audience, who trusts and respects your opinion. In a law firm job, trust and respect rarely comes without exceptional performance and peer recognition. Though clients seem to develop permanent relationships, such relationships are tenuous and always being attacked by competitors.
There's no pressure of billable hours in in-house positions, and no pressure to do extra social networking to ensure career growth and survival. Neat fact, in in-house positions you have a chance to have much less stress and much more time than in law firm positions.
There is lesser variety of work in in-house practice, depending upon the employer, while in law firm practice the work variety is inevitably greater.
In in-house positions, the chances of career growth, even after stellar performance is poor while in law-firm practice, stellar performance is recognized not only by your own employer but by many other employers.
At the end of the day, in in-house positions you'd rarely be a ‘hero' but your respect is assured as few other employees understand your vertical. In law-firm practice, it's dog-eat-dog, one slip, and you'd be trampled over, forget about respect and dignity. But if you are smart and sharp, you can become a ‘hero.'
Attorneys in in-house positions have greater control over their schedules than their counterparts in law firms, and also lesser pay, but no billable hours, and a secured amount of income every month.
As in everything else in life, it is a trade-off influenced by numerous factors including personal, economic, and cultural situations. With the current downturn in the economy showing improvements only in statistics and data sheets, the reality is that, right now, the job security in in-house positions is no different than the job-security in law firm positions. However, there is a relatively greater scope of mobility in law firm practice, while in-house positions are quite restricted in scope and numbers. The previous sheen of greater job-security in in-house positions has become dulled. A greater number of employers are seeking paralegals and other legal staff to fill in-house positions, wherever they can do without an attorney.
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