In-House Lawyers: Raising Awareness

17 / 06 / 20

The first two options that pop to many students’ mind when thinking about their legal career opportunities is either working for a corporate firm or working in the public domain, specifically within the criminal justice system. But there is an abundance of opportunities that extend beyond simply being a solicitor or barrister working in private/criminal sector practice. What appears less in-the-know is working in-house; with almost a 1/4 of the UK’s practicing solicitors working inhouse for a company.

It may also be a surprise to know that in 2017/18, the number of in-house practitioners grew at a quicker rate than those working in private practice (up 3.2%). One of the reasons for this growth is that since the recession in late 2000’s, companies, in an attempt to cut outsourcing costs, inadvertently increased the number of inhouse lawyers. Given the global recession that is destined to follow from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is safe to say that there may be an even bigger increase in insourcing solicitors by companies in the next few years. So, an in-house contract should certainly be a serious consideration.

Despite the significant amount of practising in-house lawyers and its inclining intake, is the grass really greener inside?

What is Involved in Being an In-House Lawyer?

Put simply, being an in-house lawyer involves looking after the legal needs of the organisation you work for.

The kind of work done will depend on the type of business the company is involved in, be it in retail, transport or media or whatever. However, it is said that working in-house offers a more diverse work experience as many companies, unlike their private counterpart, lack specialised departments to cater for every eventuality. In-house lawyers often find themselves having to deal with all sorts of law that may affect the company; including, but not restricted to, employment and insurance. 

As with any job, there is a non-exhaustive list of pros and cons. I have collated the most important ones that will hopefully paint a picture of what it is like being an in-house lawyer; and whether this is something you can envisage yourself doing. 

Pros:

  • Working towards a bigger picture – When you work as an in-house lawyer, there is a sense you are contributing significantly to the direction of the company. Many in-house lawyers often find themselves aligning with the company’s corporate goals which enables a feeling of progression and achievement. 
  • No need to bill hours – Many companies do not require their in-house lawyers to bill hours and as such staff can work more to their own pace. This in turn alleviates stress as, for many, time billing is seen as a determinant of success.
  • Work/Life balance – Unlike those in private practice who are expected to put their clients’ needs first, in-house lawyers have more structured hours that allow them the ability to plan and schedule ahead. With this ability they are afforded greater freedom to control their working hours.

Cons:

  • Ill perceptions – Some in-house lawyers say they perceive themselves as a ‘cost’ rather than a ‘driver’ of the business and having to fight this characterisation can be discouraging. 
  • Fewer training and development opportunities – In-house Lawyers will usually find themselves working with fewer clients under one company. Work is often found to be repetitive and there are less training and career development opportunities compared to what you would find working in private practice. 
  • Still a stressful job – lets be real, when you are working for any company, regardless of your position, it will be stressful. Working in-house means you will still come across stressful hours and the work is going to be no less demanding than that in private practice.

Advice for Applying:

Finding out whether a business is offering an in-house training contract can be challenging as there is no one-system that gathers all in-house opportunities under the same roof. Only around 500 companies are allowed to offer training contracts but not all of them actually do. As such, finding job vacancies will require extensive searching and resolute footwork. You can request a list of companies who offer a contract by emailing the Law Society’s new in-house division at inhouse@lawsociety.org.uk.

Further Resources:

If the in-house route seems like the one for you, check out the following links which advertise opportunities and all things in-house:

Or, consider opportunities with the Government Legal Profession or Crown Prosecution Service.

Working as an in-house lawyer has a multitude of unique benefits and hence it should be deliberated when choosing where to apply. My best piece of advice would be to conduct extensive and thorough research into the company’s business before you apply in order to make sure this is the best suit for you.

I hope the blog has brought an alternative career path to your attention and best of luck if you choose to apply,

Thomas x