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Donna M. Hamel, In-house Attorney

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Working as an in-house attorney has both pros and cons, just like any other attorney. Some of the pros include have more control on the projects you work on and having corporate benefits that other types of attorneys don't get. Some of the cons include long hours and often being required to work during weekends in order to help with legal projects in the company.

In-house attorneys enjoy various benefits that private practice attorneys don't have. That being said, there are some downsides to becoming an in-house attorney. While they often have more control over the projects they work on and receive corporate benefits, they also are often required to work long hours which can make it hard to take time off. All in all, you should definitely consider becoming an in-house attorney if it looks like the right fit for you.
 
  1. Why did you decide to work in a corporate legal department?

    I liked the idea of having more of an invested interest in the long-term results of my work. I also wanted to get out of the administrative (billable hours) and sales aspects of being at a law firm.
     
  2. What is the best part of working in-house?

    The best part of working in-house is to really own projects from beginning to end; i.e., strategize with the business in creating an idea, implementing it, and seeing the results after it's been in place for years.
     
  3. What is the worst part of working in-house?

    It can be challenging to truly take time off. Knowing the ins and outs of the business and details of projects that are happening make it a bit harder to pass off specialized work where intimate knowledge of the business is critical. For most of my career, I have been "on call" on late nights, weekends, holidays, vacation, and even during my maternity leave.
     
  4. What advice would you give to others looking to work in-house?

    It is good to get a few years of law firm experience before moving in-house. This provides a well-rounded base to build on, and firm perspective to better manage outside counsel.
     
  5. What is a typical day like for you as an attorney working in-house?

    I generally have a priority list in mind for the top things I want to accomplish; however, there are constant interruptions and fires that need to be put out throughout the day. There is a lot of variety, from contract negotiations to employment issues which makes the day fly by. If I'm able to get to complete just a couple things on my to-do list, while still handling all the day-to-day crises, it's been a good day.
     
  6. What was your title/is your title in your [current] position in-house?

    I wear a couple hats. I am Sr. Counsel for the Aon Hewitt division and I am General Counsel and Vice President for the Aon subsidiary Paragon Strategic Solutions Inc. operating as In point.
     
  7. How does your experience compare with your peers who chose other sorts of legal jobs?

    I have had a lot more variety in my work gaining experience in contracts, employment law, compliance, intellectual property, mergers & acquisitions, benefits, immigration, litigation management, etc. I believe it is also more enriching.
   

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