We’ve seen a dramatic increase in companies recruiting in-house lawyers - and not just in London but in the regions too. This includes roles for junior lawyers as more companies build in-house legal teams from scratch and invest in training programmes. It’s a popular choice for lawyers keen to step out of private practice into what’s seen as a more comfortable lifestyle. But is it right for you? Here are 5 key skills you need to be a successful in-house lawyer.
1. Have great leadership qualities
Stepping out of private practice into a leadership role comes with new challenges. People will turn to you to know the questions, as well as the answers - and you’ll need to be ready to step up to that responsibility. So get to know the sector you’re entering thoroughly and study more than just the legal side of it. Your work as a legal counsel in-house will have real-world consequences and having a breadth of knowledge about business as well as legal matters will count.
2. Be confident away from your desk
Things happen when you ask questions. So you’ll need to walk around and get to know people, find out how the business operates, and really understand the values and culture of the firm. This way you’ll soon know who are the right people to talk to. It’s detective work that’ll pay off when it matters.
3. Get used to taking risks
In-house lawyers are troubleshooters who can spot a problem before they happen. You’ll need to become a problem-solver and see things through from the beginning to completion. To do this successfully, you’ll take responsibility for decisions you previously would have put to the client. You can’t be risk averse anymore - now is the time to step out of your comfort zone.
4. Have an independent streak
Whereas in private practice you were a cog in a machine, moving in-house means you may be the only in-house lawyer in the company. This means you probably won’t be able to refer problems up the chain or ask for advice. Instead, you’ll need to prove yourself capable of working independently and knowing when to bring in specialist help.
5. Be more than just a lawyer
Your legal expertise will be a given. But the chances are you’ll also be asked to do things that go beyond the official lawyer role. That could involve talking to shareholders, being expected to advise in areas that are only partly about legal matters, and offer expertise outside your specialism.
You can read more about what companies look for in an in-house lawyer here.
Being an in-house lawyer is a chance for many to work more sociable hours and enjoy the challenge of a greater responsibility - whether you’re a junior lawyer or general counsel. Hiring in-house counsel for many years, here at JMC Legal Recruitment we’ve seen how lawyers with business knowledge thrive when they step out of private practice and into in-house roles.