Maybe you’re feeling a bit stagnant in your private practice role, looking for some work life balance, or just want to contribute more directly to a business and a shared goal. Maybe you are just sick of being valued largely because of a time sheet! While there are some great perks to being in-house, there are also some negatives that need to be weighed. Here are a few pros and cons of moving from private practice to in-house.
Some in-house roles can offer a variety of work over a wide range of areas of law. If you enjoy new things and working across different areas and issues, then going in-house could be just what the doctor ordered.
Ordinarily in-house roles will provide you with a lot of responsibility and autonomy, even as a junior lawyer. On the downside, in-house teams are usually pretty small, and there isn’t usually as much room for hand-holding and mentoring as you might receive as a lawyer in private practice, so many senior in-house lawyers suggest getting 4-5 years of experience to cover off on technical development before you make the move.
The style of advice
Working in-house will require a far less black letter approach than working in private practice, and much more advice on the run and over the phone. It suits those with a commercial focus and who understand risk versus reward, and how to find work-arounds for issues that arise. If you are a risk adverse lawyer, you may find that challenging! Turnaround times can also be expected to be almost instantaneous.
The office environment and support
In-house lawyers usually receive far less administrative support, less access to precedents, and have less access to colleagues to bounce ideas off. While working in a start-up might sound like a great and lively option, it might also mean typing all your own correspondence and working from a suite of underdeveloped documents.
The Salary and Career Progression
As a junior lawyer, your salary expectations for private practice and in-house will be pretty similar. However, for more senior lawyers, the salary is usually significantly higher if you are in private practice. In-house salaries are varied depending on the sector. So, if you are considering moving in-house, you should also be thinking about the sector you want to go into, especially if salary is a driving factor.
When deciding between in-house and private practice, it is important to think about long term goals like career progression. In private practice, you can be fairly certain about your career progression. As long as you are preforming well, you can progress through the ranks at a good pace. However, this career progression is less certain in-house. There are fewer senior positions, and the earning capacity in-house is far reduced compared to salaried or equity partnership in a law firm.
The risk of redundancy
Private practice lawyers have an extremely low risk of redundancy compared to both the general public, but also when compared to in-house lawyers. Essentially, as a lawyer in a firm you are a revenue producing machine; in an in-house role you are a cost, a fact not lost on CEO’s and CFO’s in businesses looking to strip wage costs out of a business.
Work-life balance is often something that lawyers complain to us about. While in-house roles do on average provide better work-life balance than a law firm, the landscape has changed over the last 10 years, and we now receive more complaints than ever from in-house lawyers about the hours they work. Also, there will always be emergencies that arise, and you may be the only person in a position to deal with those. Likewise, in-house is suited to those who can multi-task and cut through the bulk of materials quickly, and focus on the key points.
Going in-house or staying in private practice is not a decision to take lightly. Different skills are required to be successful in an in-house lawyer role versus a private practice. Some people are more suited to working in-house while others will be fit in better in a private practice. It is important, when weighing your options, to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses, the environment you want to work in, your long-term career goals.
Contact one of our experienced Consultants at Burgess Paluch today for advice on moving in-house or for a confidential career chat.