Thinking of Taking Up a Job in the Corporate Legal Department – What Differences Should You Expect?

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Thinking of Taking Up a Job in the Corporate Legal Department – What Differences Should You Expect?
Not all brilliant law school graduates get to land an attorney position with a big law firm. Some have to look for an appropriate opening in the corporate private sector. There are plenty of jobs to choose from in this sector for lawyers, as it is the second largest employment source for lawyers. However, working as an attorney in the private corporate sector is quite different from practicing in a law firm.

The Basic Differences

The good part is that you get to work as an attorney. Since there are many good law school students who are not able to land a good job, they are forced to give up their dream of building a career in law at a firm and accept any other available job to be able to pay the bills. Working in a corporation as a lawyer and working in law firm are two very different things.

  1. Salary - The money is good and is often accompanied with perks such as free club memberships, flexi-time and so on. Some companies also offer stock options - especially in high level positions. The best remuneration package is normally offered for attorney and paralegal staff with a minimum of 7 years experience.

  2. Scope of Work - There is a sudden spurt of growth in demand for in-house attorneys/counselors/paralegal staff. The major areas where corporations choose to depend upon in-house legal advice rather then hired help are intellectual property, corporate law, complex litigation, finances and real estate.

  3. Cost Center Mode of Operation - While law firms are profit centers, corporate houses are cost centers. Normally, the emphasis in this case is not on billing hours; rather it is on billable hours. In-house legal staff normally have fewer week hours overall than their counterparts in law firms. This is true unless the company faces any type of trial, and then the working hours become intense and demanding.

  4. Career Path - As an attorney, it is rare to reach the top most rungs of the ladder in a corporate house. In a law firm however, as a brilliant lawyer, you will have the opportunity to become a partner in the law firm. Notwithstanding this fact, the remuneration of senior level legal employees can and does reach enviable levels - especially if they have made their mark in any type of litigation.

It is not possible to say which one is a better career option for an ambitious attorney. It remains up to you to choose which path will give you the most professional satisfaction and return.

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