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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?
This was in the mid-80's. I had spent almost 8 years in private practice. While enjoyed certain aspects, I was anxious to become more closely involved in the strategy, planning and operations of a client. Candidly, I also had 2 experiences with firms that were having tough times, and that also tempered the traditional attraction that private firms held.
What is the best part of working in-house?
A close relationship with the client; becoming involved not just in providing a document, but being a direct partner in establishing strategy, evaluating opportunities, and generally helping manage the business. There is a discipline that exists when you realize that the deals you do, you will see, live with, and be rewarded for, potentially for the rest of your career
What is the worst part of working in-house?
I enjoy the company of lawyers. While my clients have always been great people in all the companies I have worked for, I sometimes miss the shop talk of lawyers discussing the legal and social events of the day. Also, well run law firms make an effort to make the practice of law efficient and top notch. It is a reality that in-house, the cost of practicing law is overhead - necessary overhead, but not the profit center.
Also, there is always a tension between what you feel you do well, and the company's ability to appreciate it. Sometimes, in all honesty, you get credit for some legal work that really isn't all that difficult. Sometimes (and I believe more frequently), you feel like you really pulled a rabbit out of a hat, and the client just assumes its standard Legal Work 101.
What advice would you give to others looking to work in-house?
Keep your eyes open, because good opportunities do not materialize regularly. Try to obtain a variety of experience, because the companies will be looking for someone who can help with a variety of problems. Learn to show that you are a nice person, easy and pleasant to be around. No one in a company wants the sort of prima donna that law firms sometimes tolerate.
What is a typical day like for you as an attorney working in-house?
A lot of meetings, and typically 100 or more emails. Today, for example, I discussed an employment case, a defective contraction case, a government inquiry, an equity redemption, a pending acquisition, the company's board meeting next month, and wrote two memos. Tomorrow I have a 5 hour meeting of the company's executive staff.
What was your title/is your title in your [current] position in-house?
Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary.
How does your experience compare with your peers who chose other sorts of legal jobs?
This is not scientific, and wholly anecdotal, but my impression is lawyers in government service have more frustrations with career choices than their peers. The one exception are those who are able to take a nice early retirement/pension package.
Those in private practice whose careers take off seem to have great experiences.
I think I have had more jobs than a lot of my peers, which reflects another potential downside of in-house life.
LawCrossing has the most listings of any job board I have used. It's actually a great site. The website had a lot of detail. It’s nice that you don't have to go through a recruiter if you don't want to. You can actually contact the law firm directly for the positions listed. LawCrossing had a ton of great features.