Where can you see yourself next?

So you want to be an in-house lawyer?

So you want to be an in-house lawyer?

The in-house legal markets in Sydney and Brisbane, and now Melbourne are back! We are seeing new roles every day across a multitude of sectors including construction, healthcare, financial services (including insurance), real estate and technology.

For many general counsels and hiring managers out there, just wanting to move in-house is no longer enough of a reason in an increasingly competitive landscape. With that in mind, it is a good time to consider the when, what and how of making a move in-house to assist you when seeking your next role.

Here are a few points to consider:

  • Generally speaking it is useful to reach the title of Senior Associate before moving in-house as it gives you more technical legitimacy and options when going for more senior in-house roles or even back into private practice. The exception to this would be those perfect junior to mid-level roles that come along every now again in your preferred sector.
  • If you are not sure whether you will thrive or enjoy working in-house, put your hand up for a secondment at your firm. This allows you to ‘try before you buy’ and also makes you more marketable for future in-house roles.
  • Lawyers who thoroughly enjoy the technical aspect of law should think long and hard as to whether making a move in-house is going to be up your alley.
  • Know that while you generally get a bump in salary at the 4-8 year PAE mark to move in-house, your long term earnings for the most part, are significantly lower than what can be obtained in private practice.
  • When you move in-house, career progression is often slow (aside from salary increases) and you may have to move laterally to achieve progression. Think how important progression and achievement are in your career when weighing up a move in-house.
  • For those of you who have decided they don’t want to be a lawyer long term, moving in-house can be a great stepping stone to a non-legal role (e.g. commercial, strategic roles). Brand is important when considering a move out of law, so think large and notable.
  • While there are definitely specialist in-house roles within the ASX 100 companies, for the most part you need to be prepared to accept a broader role. Keep an open mind and focus more on sector, culture and career progression.
  • Brand is also important when making out of a law firm. If you are missing out on role after role to lawyers from better known firms you may have to move up the ladder in private practice before shifting focus.
  • Importantly, when applying and interviewing for an in-house role, make sure you are genuinely interested in the company and sector. Roles are often competitive and those that display the greatest enthusiasm and interest can often secure the role over more ‘qualified’ lawyers.
  • Location, location, location. With many head offices not centrally located, spend some time thinking about the potential commute. Will you need a car? How much time will you spend commuting?
  • Finally, a move in-house doesn’t mean you can’t move back into a law firm. Don’t let the worry of a mistaken move hold you back. Risk is where life’s rewards lie.
Sam Gray

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