The In-House Difference
My first year in legal recruitment was a while ago now, but I recall it being an absolute whirlwind. Before COVID had created the new ‘norm' of online meetings, like all the other recruiters, I was meeting numerous Lawyers in back-to-back meetings with a variety of backgrounds, personality types, expectations, motivations and more importantly - practical experience. Developing the ability to draw out information was quite a task initially, particularly when Lawyers used the phrase “General Commercial” when explaining experience. Depending on each exact matter/project, that phrase on a CV really could have meant one of so many things.
I plodded along facilitating moves for Lawyers from Private Practice to other Private Practice positions as well as In-House roles but noticed quickly that the majority of Lawyers who came to us were primarily interested in moving In-House. This made me dig further into the way Private Practice Lawyers were living.
I met with one Lawyer who had been with a top-tier firm for almost 10 years. She and her husband had two children under 5 and were balancing work commitments starting from 7am, taking a small break to care for children in the early afternoon, then signing back on once the children were asleep, and finally signing off at around 11pm. I am a parent myself and I really struggled to understand how they were doing it, but the longer I spent in this role the more I saw.
It became quite clear to me over time that being afforded an opportunity to work In-House within a growing Company where you’re gaining an interesting work-mix, a salary that probably has some additional benefits including a great bonus scheme, does sound like the holy grail and I can now understand why some legal professionals see it so appealing. But of course, not all In-House opportunities provide a reasonable work life balance. Michael Chin – who won the Rising Star of the Year (In-House) category at the 2021 Australian Law Awards and the Financial Services Lawyer of the Year category at the 2021 Lawyers Weekly Corporate Counsel Awards – said that he sees the management of competing priorities as the most onerous hurdle for GCs in 2022.
“One of the biggest challenges facing In-House counsel (or GCs for that matter) would be to successfully manage the extensive workload, stakeholders’ expectations, and legal team relationships from a ‘remote basis’ (due to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and future variants) in the midst of an environment of growing business stress and increasingly changing regulatory requirements,”he said.
Businesses have transitioned vastly due to Covid. Depending on the strength of their existing legal teams, external legal spend budgets, and even the age of the business, each role varies significantly in terms of expectations of its In-House Lawyers. This is why consulting with an Executive Legal Recruiter can be so fundamental in your journey toward making an informed decision. Being able to sit down and be fully transparent with a person that is not in the deciding chair when it comes to your personal circumstances, will allow you to focus on and be offered the roles that serve your direct needs.
Another important thing to consider is seniority. It is criticallyimportant to recognise the stage of your own career and whether the decision to move In-House would be right, right now. I have met a few 3-4 PAE year Lawyers who took their first role In-House, and although they gained exposure to corporate contracts, business sale agreements and developed strong commercial acumen, their lack of Private Practice training resulted in them being left with very few career options.
Whilst these are all important factors to be considered during your own career journey, it is good to know, if the interest is there, the In-House legal market has flourished in the last few years and roles are certainly in surplus.
Author: Kirra Gaskell
Editor: Craig Ashton-Sward -Director & Senior Client Advisor