Lawyers : Thinking of moving in-house, but in two minds ?

Lawyers : Thinking of moving in-house, but in two minds ?

We are seeing an increasing number of job seekers from private practice law firms, who are looking to move to an in-house legal counsel role.  The primary driver is most likely the well-documented post-Covid effect, whereby many have been led to re-evaluate their priorities and favour work-life balance over high salaries and bonuses.


If you are thinking about switching to an in-house lawyer job, you may well be in two minds about it. It is a big change and one which needs careful consideration.  I regularly have conversations with candidates who find themselves facing into this dilemma, so I thought it would be useful to share some of their common concerns – and hopefully provide some reassurance!


“I will miss the camaraderie of private practice”


When you move to an in-house legal role, you are most likely to be the only lawyer. It’s natural to worry that there won’t be someone who you can reach out to for a second opinion. But once in their roles, in-house lawyers quickly build relationships across the business, as they are stakeholders in so many different internal teams. It is likely you will benefit from the different perspectives you will be offered.


“I will be earning less and my career might stall”


There’s no getting away from the fact that in-house legal jobs – while very well remunerated - can’t usually match the alluring salaries of private practice law firms. However, what is perhaps less well understood is that there are still opportunities for progression, even if it is not as linear. We have seen past candidates of ours go on to head up international teams, go on secondments and even take up posts abroad in an internal move. What’s more, the real pay off comes with autonomy and flexibility. You will be your own boss; you will be managing your own time and not beholden to others to meet deadlines and juggle multiple client demands.  Less pressure and conflict is, many will tell you, worth a marginal drop in salary.


“I will have less admin support”


It is true that law firms will have a far better resourced support team in place, as the infrastructure has been designed around you as the fee-earner who needs to juggle multiple clients efficiently. As an in-house lawyer, you will probably find yourself handling more of your admin. This can be an adjustment at first, but it’s something we never hear of as an issue once our candidates are happily installed in their new roles and enjoying all the other benefits which working in-house can bring.


“I won’t learn as much”


Quite the opposite is true! As an in-house legal counsel, you will be an integral part of delivering key business decisions and actions. You will have the opportunity to learn about a whole new industry vertical.  You will have a much broader scope of responsibilities and exposure to wide spectrum of legal matters, such as contracts, employment law, intellectual property, litigation, tax, antitrust, ethics and privacy. And as for ongoing legal training, the vast majority of hiring companies who take on legal teams do tend to invest heavily in learning and development, so opportunities are there for the taking.


“I won’t feel as valued”


Billable hours bring with them added pressure, but the flipside is that when you’re doing well, everyone will know about it and your efforts will be rewarded. However, that type of environment isn’t for everyone and even the most brilliant lawyers don’t always thrive in it. As an in-house lawyer, your great work may not always be so obviously visible, but it will be recognised in other ways, such as through quarterly appraisals and, in many cases, performance-related bonuses. 


The in-house lawyers we have placed with Leonid who have made the switch from law firms are, without exception, happy in their new roles and finding they have made a rewarding career choice. This is because they took time to really understand what the pros and cons would be, so there were no surprises.


If you’d like any further advice on making the decision to go in-house, feel free to contact me for an informal chat.