For a legal professional who has never worked in-house, making the switch might feel like a big step into the unknown. As with any unfamiliar territory, it may seem risky and many won’t give it any consideration. For those who are thinking of moving in-house, and those who’ve never thought of moving, here are a few reasons why working in-house is great, and why it is worth consideration.
Less stress about billable quota
Typically, an in-house lawyer will not be required to meet a certain billable quota as they are part of the company itself. Therefore, in-house legal professionals need not stress about a billable quota or the pressure of billable hours and can focus their attention to completing the projects at hand with diligence.
More work life balance
A big perk of working in-house compared to private practice is a more balanced work week. Typically, in-house legal professionals can leave the office by late evening. While it may not be a standard 9-6 job, it still has more work life balance than the frequent late late nights in private practice.
As any other employee of a corporation would receive, in-house lawyers will also receive the company’s benefits package. This could include anything from health insurance, to housing, pension, and stock options, depending on the company.
One downside on the employment benefits side is typically in-house lawyers earn less per year than a lawyer in private practice. This, however, can be viewed as outweighed by all the perks of in-house such as more work life balance, no billable quota, and ownership in the work.
Ownership in assignments
Typically, the legal team in a corporation is fairly small especially like foreign global entities in Japan. As such, each individual has a bigger impact on the work and this creates a sense of ownership. Rather than working on a small piece of the assignment, in-house legal professionals are very involved inside the whole project and since they are close to the project, they get to see the outcome of their work. Working in-house may also allow legal professionals to participate in advising on business decisions.
Variety of work
As the legal team in-house is fairly small, the projects a lawyer will work on vary. An in-house lawyer will cover a variety of legal areas for the business, from employment law, to various license agreements, to royalties and commercial contracts. The variety of work can make the job more exciting day to day and also make the team more well-rounded.
One thing to note is that switching back to a law firm can be difficult after working in-house for a number of years as in-house legal professionals tend to become more generalists than specialists, the opposite of what many law firms prefer. This makes it difficult to switch into a specialist role at a law firm in the future unless the industry is related to the regulated industries such as banking & finance, life insurance, and healthcare.
Clear career progression
With in-house legal counsel there is more of a clear career progression than in private practice where it may be difficult to get promoted. In a law firm, some lawyers might be stuck in an associate position for years without moving up. In-house lawyers can move up or make a shift into another department, for example compliance or even business development and consulting.
Working in an exciting industry or brand
As an in-house lawyer, all the projects will be for one client. As such, if the lawyer is passionate about that particular industry or the company’s brand, then all the projects they work on are related to something of their interest.
Nowadays it is common for smaller law firms to become acquired and some firms are restructuring or even downsizing operations. As such, there may be more stability as an in-house lawyer. When corporations are needing to have layoffs, the legal department typically stays in tact as lawyers are needed when dealing with the legal outcomes of layoffs.
Sense of team
As working in-house involves collaborating with numerous members in the business, there is a bigger sense of teamwork and more emphasis on communication and collaboration. Coordinating with the different business managers and stakeholders within the company on a frequent basis will create a sense of team. Every accomplishment is a victory for the whole team as everyone will be working towards a common goal.
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- Working in-house comes with benefits that can have a positive impact on your personal and professional life.
- Personal benefits include no pressure to meet a billable quota, more work-life balance, a company benefits package, more stability, and a sense of belonging.
- Professional benefits and opportunities include making a bigger impact on the workplace, practicing a variety of work, clear career progression, working in an exciting industry/brand.