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Why did you decide to work in a corporate legal department?
I wanted a role where I would be making a direct impact on the business. I no longer wanted to be an associate constantly subjected to constraining the quality of my work under the bottom line of the billable hour. While I realize it's a necessary portion of legal work, I wanted to take my time, and devote myself to one client (my own company) in order to unlock my full potential as an attorney. The opportunity for such a General Counsel and hybrid Business Development role was ideal for me. I could be out in the market networking while doing meaningful legal work at the same time. Also, the due diligence and compliance industry was extremely alluring to me. So much so that I am now in the process of becoming a Certified Anti-money Laundering Specialist, as well as a Certified Fraud Examiner.
What is the best part of working in-house?
The best part of working in house is access. As a law firm associate there is a definite hierarchy as to client interaction and to breadth of work. You move up the ranks when your managing partner feels you are ready. Although frightening in some respects, in-house work is challenging and fruitful because suddenly the responsibility of client development and quality work falls squarely on your own shoulders. Giving a mid-level associate this responsibility actually pushes them to become a stronger attorney in my opinion. Knowing that a partner is not the editor of my work inspires me to ensure my first drafts are near perfect.
What is the worst part of working in-house?
At a law firm, you are given billable credit for your long hours. If you work 16 hour days, likely your billable hours, and your bonus will reflect credit earned for same. As an in-house counsel, there is always something to do, or something more that can be done. Because there is no billable system, your success is not gauged by face time, despite the fact you might still be spending 16 hours a day working. That's probably the single biggest myth about working in-house - that it's a 9-5 gravy train. Not so!
What advice would you give to others looking to work in-house?
Try to become a generalist. Do not pigeon-hole yourself into one type of practice area. When you are in-house you are wearing many different hats. Everything from litigator, to corporate attorney to labor and employment. You want to be able to have a broad base of knowledge that you can build upon.
What is a typical day like for you as an attorney working in-house?
Because I was most recently in an international role, the emails would start at midnight and stall around 5pm. Responding to queries, liaising with clients, and drafting documents is a large portion of it. The other portion of it is following up with new clients, and researching to publish articles, as well as responding to press inquiries. I spent the fall of 2013 on the road internationally at conferences to develop the business. That took up about 10 hours of my time daily!
What was your title/is your title in your current position in-house?
Most recently I was Head of Global Strategy, a hybrid GC and business development role. I've since left to start my own diligence consulting company.
How does your experience compare with your peers who chose other sorts of legal jobs?
I've definitely experienced more breadth of opportunities. I've had the chance to be in-house, and at a law firm. I've done civil litigation, corporate work, and also traveled internationally extensively. However, sometimes I long for the stability my peers have in the positions they've accepted and stayed at from Summer Associate to Senior Associate.
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