Sabrina Gerold, 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 love practicing law, but law firm life was filled with the constant pressure of billable hours and a client book which became very stressful. I wanted to work in an environment that allowed greater time to focus on the quality of my work without the burden of billing or building a client book in order to advance. Working in-house appealed to me because I really liked the idea of having one client and the ability to truly address their ongoing and changing needs WITH them. I also felt there was greater job security as I no longer would have to continuously build my client book, bill a minimum amount of hours or compete with my colleagues to receive an annual bonus or simply to keep my job. And finally, an in-house position offers set hours. Obviously there are days that I work longer hours than average and I cannot say that I have never pulled an all-nighter, but I no longer have the pressure, stress or requirement to work until 10pm or 2am to close a deal.

  2. What is the best part of working in-house?

    For me, the best part of working in-house is the feeling of being connected to what I do. The opportunity to regularly meet with my client (our senior management team) is extremely important as it has given me the chance to know my client in a way that would take years if I were outside counsel.

  3. What is the worst part of working in-house?

    Working in-house is amazing, but there are some differences from the law firm environment. The most unique and distinguishing difference for me was all of the new technology I was now required to learn. The other, was virtually going paperless…….tell a lawyer to go paperless. Our company utilizes some of the most advanced technology within our industry and as a result we achieved approximately a 95% paperless operation. I'm pretty sure legal accounts for the entire paper operation or at least 4.99% of it.

    Another distinction is how often we attend meetings in the corporate setting. This was new to me because in each law firm I've worked in, I was expected to work independently and would meet with another associate or partner to discuss strategy or an issue, if one arose. I will say that attending each meeting was and still is extremely valuable to learning about my new corporate environment and about how each department and project team works.

  4. What advice would you give to others looking to work in-house?

    My advice for those seeking in-house employment would be to network, network, network. Unlike a law firm position, there will not be a great deal of advertised openings so you have to reach out to colleagues, friends and recruiters that specialize in placing in-house attorneys. Be prepared to put in more effort to find your in-house position and do not become discouraged by the time it may take to find your in-house fit.

  5. What is a typical day like for you as an attorney working in-house?

    A typical day at the office for me starts at 8am. I begin each day by reviewing our calendar of open projects and bidding projects because timely performance is critical to providing the highest level of service to our clients. Most days include any combination of the following: reviewing project closeout documents; review and negotiation of new project owner agreements and trade agreements; review of project scopes to identify missing information or unknown areas and presenting my thoughts and findings to the project and executive teams.

  6. What was your title/is your title in your (current) position in-house?

    My previous title was "Associate" and my current title is "Counsel".

  7. How does your experience compare with your peers who chose other sorts of legal jobs?

    I think my experience is pretty well rounded as I have worked for a not-for-profit, large NYC firms as well as a boutique NYC firm and allows me to truly appreciate the benefits and advantages of working as in-house counsel.

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