If you are interested in working as an in-house attorney, now is the time to learn about the various roles within an in-house legal department and seek out practical in-house experience. The first step to exploring an in-house career is to learn what an in-house attorney does and consider the pros and cons of working in-house as opposed to traditional private practice.
In-house attorneys can work for public or private corporations, non-profit organizations, or government agencies, and in-house legal departments come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Large legal departments are usually comprised of a general counsel, an assistant general counsel, and a team of staff attorneys. The larger the legal department, the more likely the lawyers are to specialize in a particular area such as litigation or mergers and acquisitions. In smaller legal departments, the lawyers are more likely to be generalists who are responsible for handling a wide variety of legal matters.
According to NALP’s Going In-House: A Guide for Law Students and Recent Graduates, some of the advantages of working in-house include working for a single client, being closely involved in the success of the business, having significant responsibility on a variety of legal projects, and enjoying a higher quality of life. While in-house lawyers do not have the pressure of billable hour expectations associated with private practice, Going In-House also cites several disadvantages of working in-house, which include job security as in-house lawyers are subject to the successes and failures of the business, lower compensation compared to attorneys in private practice, and a lack of camaraderie with other lawyers, which is particularly applicable to organizations with small legal departments.
Students who are interested in working in-house should take advantage of opportunities for practical experience with in-house legal departments, including internships (paid work experience) and externships (for credit work experience). Click here to access a listing of Florida Coastal’s externship opportunities. While the traditional path to a coveted in-house position includes “paying your dues” in private practice, some in-house legal departments, particularly at large corporations, are hiring directly out of law school. Click here to read an article from InsideCounsel discussing innovative lawyer recruiting and training programs at two large corporations. The article also highlights four attorneys who landed in-house positions right out of law school.
For more information about in-house counsel careers, stop by the CSD library. Some of our resources include NALP’s Going In-House: A Guide for Law Students and Recent Graduates by Donna Gerson, Esq.; Vault’s Guide to Corporate Law Careers; and The 2011-2012 Directory of Corporate Counsel.
Follow my blog throughout the week to learn more about exploring an in-house career!