Published: Dec 21, 2022
Whether you’re unsure about your future in BigLaw because of burnout from trying to meet billable hour requirements, concerns over recent layoffs (including those at Cooley, Gunderson Dettmer, and Kirkland & Ellis), or upcoming uncertainty in how BigLaw will respond to declines in business and hiring needs, an attractive option for attorneys may be to go in-house with a corporation or startup. And why not? Becoming in-house counsel has long been seen as a great alternative for attorneys with some experience who are looking for something more predictable and less erratic. However, going in-house has its own challenges, and may not be the “golden ticket” it once was thought to be.
Before we get into it, it’s important to lay the groundwork for what it takes to be in-house counsel. Corporations rarely hire attorneys directly from law school; rather, they generally look for attorneys with experience in a broad range of subjects—including corporate, labor and employment, risk management, compliance, regulatory matters, and general litigation—so they can minimize the amount of training and supervision needed for persons managing the entity’s broad range of legal affairs.[i] Attorneys must have certain experience and knowledge before assuming the role of primary legal representative of a company, regardless of how small or large that company is.
Why Attorneys Want to Go In-House
So, what are some of the key benefits of being in-house counsel?
But Being In-House Counsel is Not All Fun and Games
In spite of many benefits, there are numerous challenges and downsides to going in-house, including:
Before rushing into an opportunity to become in-house counsel because of its appealing aspects, especially given the demands and unknowns of BigLaw, be sure to keep in mind the many challenges and issues that exist with going in-house.
[i] Association of Corporate Counsel. (2013, December). Becoming In-house Counsel: A Guide for Law Students and Recent Graduates. https://www.acc.com/sites/default/files/resources/vl/membersonly/InfoPAK/19654_2.pdf
[ii] Shang, E. (2018, November 28). 5 Things Under 30 Law Associates Should Do To Make Partner. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/evashang/2018/11/28/5-things-under-30-law-associates-should-do-to-make-partner/?sh=2cc849e825cd
[iii] Knockless, T. (2022, June 23). Turning Point: Legal Departments Bringing More and More Work In-House. Law.com. https://www.law.com/corpcounsel/2022/06/23/turning-point-legal-departments-bringing-more-and-more-work-in-house/
[iv] Vine Attorney Search. (2022, September 14). The Pros and Cons of Attorneys Going In-House: When Is It the Right Decision? https://vineattorneysearch.com/2022/09/the-pros-and-cons-of-attorneys-going-in-house-when-is-it-the-right-decision/
[v] Biglaw Investor. (2022). Biglaw Salary Scale. https://www.biglawinvestor.com/biglaw-salary-scale/
[vi] Salary.com. (2022, November 23). General Counsel Salary in the United States. https://www.salary.com/research/salary/alternate/general-counsel-salary
[vii] Weiss, D.C. (2022, June 22). Corporate legal departments spend more in-house than on outside law firms, survey finds. ABA Journal. https://www.abajournal.com/news/article/corporate-legal-departments-spend-more-in-house-than-on-outside-law-firms-survey-finds
[viii] Wen, K. (2021, December 6). 7 outside counsel management rules efficient general counsels follow. SimpleLegal. https://www.simplelegal.com/blog/outside-counsel-management
[ix] Barnes, H. (2022, May 16). Why Going In-house Is Often the Worst Decision a Good Attorney Can Ever Make. BCG Attorney Search. https://www.bcgsearch.com/article/900045115/Why-Going-In-house-is-Often-the-Worst-Decision-a-Good-Attorney-Can-Ever-Make/
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