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Are In-House Departments Facing an Exodus of Talent?

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on February 04, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Everyone good in the corporate legal department wants out. Yeah, you read that right. According to legal recruitment director Doron Paluch, in-house lawyers are looking to move into private practice at a rate higher than ever before.

Could it be that private practice actually has a lot more to offer?

In-House Slow Down

Paluch, director of legal recruitment companies Burgess Palcuh and Kaleidoscope, says that he has observed what he called "slow conditions in the in-house market" over the last 12 to 18 months in the legal industry and that this could be a contributing factor for many in-house attorneys looking to greener pastures. Sure, Paluch's experience is centered on the Australian market, but his insights might ring true to domestic in-house lawyers. According to The Global Legal Post, Paluch's insights show that "the emerging trend bucks the well-worn wisdom that firm lawyers often seek greener pastures in-house."

Variety Is the Spice of Life

One of the oft cited reasons many lawyers give for their desire to pursue a job in-house is the perception (justified or not) of relative job security. You only serve a single client, the company, and that's a good thing. At least organization seems easier. It ain't all wonderful, though.

And a quick read of what Mr. Paluch has to say indicates that this lack of client diversity can also have its drawbacks: boredom and stagnation. "We speak to lawyers who are now working in-house and are feeling that they're getting tired of working for only one client, being their employer," said Paluch. In other words, the opportunity to work with other clients is actually a good thing.

Tale Michael Milnes. A lawyer who worked as senior legal counsel a Metcash, he decided to hang up his in-house hat and join the firm of Mill Oakley as special counsel. He's obviously heard the stories of attorneys grabbing for in-house careers like flies to a honeypot but he thinks that "going the other way is really interesting." A cryptic description, to be sure. Either way, the main draw of private practice, he said, was the opportunity to work with various clients.

Grand Takeaways

Isn't it interesting? The very reasons that people sought in-house are the very same reasons in-house lawyers want to leave -- and vice versa for private practice. We suppose this is just human nature.

But back to our original question: is in-house suffering a mass exodus? Probably not. At the very least, it is too soon to tell.

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