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Lawyers: Should you make the move in-house?
The prestige, challenge and remuneration that can come from working in a law practice is something many lawyers are drawn to, especially recent graduates. However, for lawyers at any stage of their career, it’s worth considering the option of going in-house.
While the main attraction of in-house work is the more predictable and regular working hours, there are lots of hidden benefits to moving to an in-house legal role.
With at least a quarter of all legal professionals in Singapore working in-house, it’s a popular career move. So, whether you’re a newly minted graduate or a seasoned practitioner, here are our top tips for those considering going to an in-house legal position:
What are the positives?
Your objectives, when working in-house, are to proactively engage the commercial workforce, manage activity to reduce external spend, minimise risk and meet industry compliance.
The positive aspects of working in-house can include:
- More regular working hours, meaning it’s likely you’ll enjoy a better work/life balance and a more consistent workload
- No timesheets or billings
- The opportunity to become integrally involved in the running of the business
- The potential to move into the commercial areas of the business by internal transfer
- No need to seek out new clients or worry about retaining existing clients
Opportunities to expand into different areas of legal practice
What are the challenges?
- Often, the move in-house can involve a pay cut
- As companies are now outsourcing less, they are demanding more from their in-house lawyers, meaning you might inadvertently sign up for a heftier workload than you hoped, rather than a reduction in hours
- You may need to work hard to win over internal clients, as some may be used to doing all the work themselves, with the autonomy and credit that entails
- With fewer legal colleagues than in a firm, you can’t necessarily seek the advice of a more senior lawyer
You may need to move companies more often if you’re genuinely keen to progress in seniority, responsibility and salary in an in-house career, as small teams could limit your career path and in-house work typically involves smaller increases in salary
What else should I keep in mind?
It’s important to thoroughly research a company before you make a move in-house, as it’s uncommon for a legal professional to return to private practice once they’ve made the move.
Moving in-house too early in your career could potentially limit your development opportunities and the chance to expand and sharpen your professional skills, as in-house and private career paths are very different.
Be aware that, although roles in private practice are specialised, an in-house lawyer will typically need to have wide-reaching knowledge and responsibility that covers a whole range of areas like employment, property, commercial and corporate law.
If you need more guidance in helping you make the choice, speak to mentors or experienced professionals on each side of the divide to understand the real implications, opportunities, downsides and benefits of a career shift.
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Weigh up the pros and cons for moving in-house or remaining in a legal firm. It’s important to consider:
- Work-life balance – you may gain better work life balance in-house
- Remuneration levels – practice law is usually much more lucrative
- Opportunities to learn and move sideways – working in-house offers commercial exposure and different career avenues