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In-house lawyers

The types of work undertaken by in-house lawyers and their potential employers.

In-house lawyers are employed in commerce and industry. Both solicitors and barristers may work in-house and often make the move having gained experience in private practice. There are as many different roles in industry as there are different types of companies, although generally a private practice lawyer with specialist experience in practice will seek a role in-house in the same sector. Specific roles and work can vary enormously as can the size of a company in-house team but the common feature of working in-house is that it is very different to private practice and will appeal to a certain type of person. So is an in-house lawyer position for you?

Factors to consider

  • Financial – salaries for in-house lawyers may not be as high as in private practice but there can be other compensation such as a company pension scheme, share options and bonuses along with the all important work-life balance as working hours are generally shorter than for a commercial lawyer in private practice.
  • Will it suit your personal skills? You may be the sole in-house lawyer or part of a large team. Either way the working culture will be significantly different from private practice. You will be working with a range of people with different skills and often expected to contribute to management and strategy to support the business. If you are a technical lawyer who enjoys black letter lawyering, the demands of the corporate world may not be for you. Others will enjoy the challenge and breadth of experience an in-house lawyer role provides outside of the often more narrow world of private practice.
  • Career development – if you work in-house the route of partnership may be closed to you but you will have other opportunities. In a smaller company you may have more opportunities take on a greater management and strategic role within the business. In a company which employs a team of in-house lawyers, you may aim to be the head of the legal team, a role which again is likely to have a strategic function within the company.

The work of an in-house lawyer

So why do companies employ in-house lawyers instead of solely instructing external lawyers? The simple reason is that an in-house lawyer can add value to a business in the following ways:

  • Managing external spend on legal advisers
  • Advising on internal legal risk management
  • Adding strategic and commercial value
  • In-sourcing work previously carried out by external legal advisors
  • Managing company pension schemes
  • Undertaking the function of company secretary

An in-house legal advisor has the opportunity to be an integral part of the wide commercial activities of a business. External legal advisors will seek to know their clients’ businesses as well as they possibly can, but that is no substitute for someone working in-house in a company day to day. An in-house lawyer in a larger company may also be able to achieve greater financial efficiency when managing a panel of external legal advisors.

The Commerce and Industry Group was formed to represent in-house solicitors and is recognised by The Law Society. Their website may be found at - www.cigroup.org.uk. The counterpart group for barristers is the Bar Association for Commerce, Finance and Industry - www.bacfi.org

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