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Maybe you're an associate with a few years under your belt, dreaming of landing a cushy in-house job instead of pursuing the partner track. Maybe you're already in-house, rolling your eyes at the outsiders who think you have it easy. Either way, you know that in-house work is valued and in demand.
Here's some of the main reasons people decide to pursue in-house careers, as well as a few warnings about why some lawyers might want to think twice.
Many lawyers seek out in-house work because they are tired of the big firm lifestyle. Long, unpredictable hours, the tedium of billable hour quotas, and the pressure to "make it rain" all push some lawyers to look for alternatives. Since these pressures are part of almost all firm work, lawyers look for alternatives that will allow them to make use of their legal skills without requiring them to put up with the firm lifestyle.
For those lawyers, in-house work is viewed as a great way to stay engaged in important work while maintaining a semblance of work-life balance. Many companies are looking to in-house counsel to play a greater role in decision making, which offers lawyers a chance to have their business input valued. They are a "part of the team" as opposed to simply a hired gun. Plus, the pay is not bad, the hours are more regular, and you rarely have to account for every six minutes of your day.
Those grinding away in corporate legal departments, however, know it's not all milk and honey. First, working a twelve hour day is not unheard of for in-house counsel. Though you may get your weekends back, in-house work isn't exactly a relaxing job.
Second, the nature of the work is different. While lawyers in law firms often become highly specialized, in-house counsel are often expected to be knowledgeable in a variety of areas, from securities to cyber security to employment law. Since they are often giving advice as things develop, in-house attorneys are often required to make decisions and suggestions on the spot. That can be uncomfortable for lawyers who've gotten used to exhaustively researching every issue and potential outcome before making a decision.
Of course, these are no reasons to avoid in-house work altogether. For many lawyers, going in-house is a dream come true. But a successful firm or in-house career is often the result of the individual circumstances at play -- the specific firm or company, the type of colleagues, a lawyer's professional goals -- not generalizations.
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