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Moving from private practice to working in-house is a big career decision. So let’s compare a career in private practice with one as an in-house lawyer.

Which pays more?

The traditional route for a lawyer is to work at a law firm, fight off the competition to become a partner with a big salary. This is still true today. But there’s been a steady decline in the number of partnerships available, and you’ll be earning those big bucks by working long hours, even in senior roles.  

The wages for in-house lawyers vary hugely depending on the sector you work in. Public sector roles will pay their legal counsel teams less than those in finance and technology. But plenty of corporate firms offer salaries averaging over £165,000 to senior lawyers. 

What will the work day be like?

You can be part of a team at a law firm. Sharing common goals, working on projects together and a sense of collective pride when the firm is thriving. Plus, you’ll have all the resources and training you need to do your job. But as you work your way up in a law firm, you must cultivate new business opportunities and develop valuable contacts.

In contrast, in-house lawyers will find no two days are the same. You could oversee global operations, working at a much faster pace and seeing projects through from start to completion. But you’ll probably have fewer resources - so be prepared to file your own paperwork!

If you want to know more about the skills needed to be a successful in-house lawyer, read this.

Work/life balance

In private practice, the client is king. If they call you at 6pm on a Friday night, you’ll probably be in the office on Saturday. That’s why the financial rewards are substantial - even for junior lawyers in certain law firms.

But working 60-80 hours a week gets old after a few years and burnout is common. No wonder moving in-house appeals - with the promise of normal office hours or flexible working opportunities. And with wages often in six-figures, you can still enjoy a comfortable lifestyle.

What about career progression?

Your career path is more clear cut in private practice. And for junior lawyers just starting out, a law firm offers a safety net where senior lawyers can oversee your work. You’ll also be encouraged to explore different areas of law to specialise in.

Most in-house roles will want you to have a certain level of private practice and client handling experience before making the move. But when you do, training programmes and career progression may not be available. There could be senior management roles above general counsel you won’t be expected to move into. 

Which is the better career choice?

Only you can decide that. But the good news is the number and variety of In-house roles is increasing - giving you more opportunities to make the move whatever stage you’re at in your career. So if you want to know more, get in touch with us for a confidential chat about the opportunities we currently have.