What are the major advantages and disadvantages of moving to an in-house position from a law firm?

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Roger Boord
Question:

I am currently an attorney in a major law firm. Can you provide some guidance as to the major advantages and disadvantages of moving into an in-house position compared to staying in a law firm?




Answer:

Of course, whether the in-house path is better or worse for you than your current law firm path depends on your individual situation. Nevertheless, there are some important general differences between the two paths that you should take into consideration in determining the answer to this question.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of staying in a law firm is that they can provide you with the greatest opportunities for success (traditionally defined). For many lawyers, the pinnacle of the legal profession is to be a major rainmaker at a big firm. They make the most money, have the most control over their lives (and many others' lives) and have by far the most security. This is because rainmakers control substantial amounts of portable business. This allows them to always have enough work, as well as the freedom to go to many other firms should things not work out to the rainmaker's satisfaction at their current firm. While in-house opportunities can also offer a great deal, they usually do not compare in terms of compensation, power/control and freedom/security. Of course, only a relatively few lawyers in big firms ever become major rainmakers. The question that you should ask is how close are you to becoming one? If things are going well and you are successfully developing business (or are likely to do so in the future), you may be giving up a great deal if you drop out of the law firms and go in-house. On the other hand, if your efforts toward developing business are not or likely will not be sufficiently rewarded, then the opportunity cost of going in-house is much lower. The other major disadvantages (at least for those who are not top rainmakers) with law firms are well known. These include heavy demands, long hours, firm politics, effects on personal health and lack of security.

Click Here to Find Out What In-house Attorney Positions Actually Pay.

In contrast, the biggest advantage of going in-house is that you do not have to develop business at all. Many law firm attorneys are interested in going in-house largely because of the rigorous demands regarding business development that prevail at most firms. The other advantages of in-house opportunities is that they also tend to be less demanding than firms in terms of hours, health, etc. (although the differences are less than they used to be). Lawyers can thus sometimes find more satisfying work and/or life style in a company than at a firm. The major disadvantages of in-house opportunities include significantly lower pay than many firms and far less security than a rainmaker has in a firm. This is because after a downsizing or similar event an in-house attorney will likely have major difficulty finding work either in-house (because such opportunities are so rare) or at a firm (because they now lack a big book of business). On the other hand, a lawyer who is not a rainmaker (or a younger associate with superstar credentials) who is coming out of a law firm will also likely face the same challenges. In addition, sometimes lawyers find that the work in-house is less interesting and challenging than the work they did in a firm. Also, while opportunities for advancement in law firms can be very challenging, such opportunities may be even more limited in the in-house context. Finally, because in-house opportunities are relatively few in number, attorneys must often be willing to move elsewhere in order to take advantage of the few applicable in-house opportunities that do exist.

More Resource

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