Legal recruiters offer both in-house jobs as well as roles in private practice. As specialist legal recruiters, our only objective is to find you the role that suits you and your career plan best, the role that compliments your skills, experience and goals. This could just as easily be in-house in industry or government as in private practice, so all our legal recruiters have extensive relationships with both law firms and the in-house legal departments of corporations all over the UK.
If you are not sure of the difference ‘in-house’ refers to legal positions in which you’d work within the legal department of a company or other large organisation. ‘Private practice’ refers to lawyers working in law firms, usually as part of the team in a specific practice area.
How does a career as an in-house lawyer compare with a career in private practice?
There are several marked differences between being an in-house lawyer and a lawyer in private practice. These include:
Your client relationships
When you work in house your clients will be your colleagues in other departments within your organisation. In private practice your clients will be external and in most cases, you will work on multiple clients.
The variety of your work
In-house lawyers, by definition, focus on handling legal issues specific to the business they work for. The nature of the work will vary depending on the requirements of the business and the size of the legal team. You could find yourself with a very varied case load that spans contracts, compliance, employment law, regulatory issues and property.
However, in private practice you will come to specialise in a particular type of work so the variety of your work will depend on the breadth and current requirements of your client base.
Although traditionally one would probably associate big salaries with a partner position at a large law firm, the truth is there aren’t really any hard and fast rules.
There are less equity partnerships available today and your pay is more likely to be defined by the size of your firm or the organisation you work for and by the sector you work in. Whether you are in-house or in private practice, a job in the finance or tech sectors will pay more than one in the public sector.
The origin of your work
In-house lawyers can expect a steady flow of work from across the business. This could vary hugely in volume depending on what projects the business has on at any given time. However, in private practice you will ultimately be expected to bring in your own work, primarily by developing a productive professional network and building your position as the ‘go to’ option internally.
You work/life balance
In private practice, you will have to meet client demand. This can lead to long hours and short weekends. Although there will be pressures from time to time, you are more likely to maintain a ‘normal’ working week or, increasingly, enjoy more flexible working arrangements if you are in-house.
Your career progression
Your career path is usually clearer in private practice and support that progression with partner oversight and training. By comparison many in-house roles will require a certain amount of experience in private practice so you arrive more ‘fully formed’; this can mean ongoing training isn’t available, particularly given you will likely be working in a smaller team and in a more varied role valuable.
Also, there is no partnership to move into when you’re working in-house. Some lawyers do move into very senior executive board roles but many never move past general counsel.
Only you can decide whether in-house or private practice is the best route for you, but the good news is the number and range of in-house roles is increasing at all levels. If you’d like to discuss which could be the better option for you, please get in touch with our highly experienced legal recruitment specialists today.