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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.
Why did you decide to work in a corporate legal department?
I was fortunate to find an opportunity to join a dynamic small business with a small legal department that was experiencing some exciting international growth. Their needs matched very well with my skill set and I saw working in-house as a great opportunity to grow with the company.
What is the best part of working in-house?
One of the best parts of working in-house is the close relationships that have developed between the legal department and the business units. They give me the opportunity to work with managers on a daily basis and to learn their needs and priorities at a fundamental level. The benefits of these relationships to my effectiveness as an advisor are really substantial.
What is the worst part of working in-house?
I can't say that there are many. One of the most challenging parts, especially in a newer company, can be establishing a corporate culture that values the legal department's input at the early stages of planning or decision making. Sometimes overcoming preconceptions about lawyers or the legal process can require an approach to advising that favors channeling the clients' actions toward their stated goals within legal and ethical boundaries, rather than simply throwing out obstacles. This requires a good business sense and deep understanding of their priorities.
What advice would you give to others looking to work in-house?
I'm often called upon to give concise and accurate advice about issues involving almost any area of law on my feet. Knowing the industry and the business of the client is essential to properly directing this kind of advice, and so is having a broad understanding of a lot of legal disciplines along with the ability to go run down some of those issues in depth when necessary. Translating this advice into straightforward language without jargon or lengthy recitations of case law is a skill worth developing.
What is a typical day like for you as an attorney working in-house?
I typically have a couple of long term projects involving contract or corporate governance to which I like devote a couple of hours in the morning before the meetings and other requests for advice begin in earnest. These other issues can range from compliance to employment issues and more. I also have frequent contact with outside counsel and try to attend a networking event or two each week.
What was your title/is your title in your [current] position in-house?
How does your experience compare with your peers who chose other sorts of legal jobs?
It's certainly very different than my colleagues working in firms or clerking. There are quite a few of us already working in house, though. I hope this is a trend that continues.
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