In-House Roles May be Coveted by Lawyers, But They Are Not For Everyone

April 26, 2023


Every week, The Counsel Network fields questions from associates and partners considering a move in-house. Although in-house roles may be coveted by lawyers, they are not for everyone. There is a myriad of issues, concerns, and opportunities to consider before committing to moving in-house.


At The Counsel Network, we leverage over three decades of legal recruitment experience and expertise, as well as our inside knowledge and extensive connections, so you can supplement your self-assessment and identify the legal role and organizational culture best suited for you.


In our Going In-House Guide, we answer key questions, provide in-depth information, and dispel myths about in-house practice. Below are three commonly asked questions covered in our Guide.


  1. When in my career should I move in-house?

Generally, in-house departments are not looking for lawyers who require training, but rather lawyers that can bring existing useful legal skills to their departments.


Although there is no ideal time to make a transition from private practice to in-house, we generally recommend lawyers build a good base of legal skills before making the move. For most Associates, we find this happens somewhere between 4-7 years post-call. It is around this stage that Associates are most attractive for General Counsel looking to hire.


  1. How do I best prepare for moving in-house?

Gaining exposure to and experience with a wide variety of corporate/commercial transactions is the best training for going in-house. Most positions require this experience. Some experience within the context of the industry, which is a driver in your geographic region, can be useful. Whether mining, energy, oil and gas, manufacturing or financial services – seek out the industry team in your firm to gain exposure to the sector as well as a few files.


If you specialize in litigation, employment, IP, or other such specialty, your best chance to obtain an in-house position is to target large in-house departments that may need a specialist in those areas.


  1. What is the best way to find an in-house job?

Actively networking in the business community and working with a legal recruiter are the two best ways to make a good move into an in-house position. Many companies rely on legal recruiters to help them find great lawyers. HR departments in many large organizations recognize they may not have the same reach or the same ability to determine who the best candidates are and hence rely on our expertise to help in their hiring process.


If you’re thinking about moving in-house, talk to an experienced legal recruiter to explore when and if moving in-house is the right move for you.


When hiring, most General Counsel seek lawyers who approach the practice of law pragmatically. Private practice lawyers are often required to assess risks and identify every potential problem in a given course of action. However, in the in-house environment, this risk assessment must be balanced with business objectives. As the internal legal counsel, you may be expected to assess whether the risk needs to be identified depending on the Company’s business objectives and risk tolerance. A practical approach is essential.


Moving from private practice to an in-house position is an important decision. One that will impact your career and professional life. Our Guide addresses some key considerations to help you best position yourself for your dream in-house counsel position.


If you’re considering a move in-house, please reach out for a confidential discussion.