Where can you see yourself next?

Private Practice to In house

Private Practice to In house

When should you take the leap?

One of the most common questions we receive at Montgomery is when is the best time to leave the trenches of private practice for the calmer, albeit occasionally choppy, waters of in-house. The answer, unhelpfully, is at some point after admission and before retirement. Over the past few years, companies in all sectors have lowered the PAE barrier to welcome ever more junior lawyers into the fold. For those that make the move at the beginning of their career, the perks are certainly plentiful. They include developing a robust interpersonal skill set, crafted through on-the-spot questioning by rambunctious executives in the corridor; a keen commercial acumen that rivals those in the corner offices; and a legal skill set so broad you can confidently juggle an employment kafuffle, a high-value service contract negation, and advise on a tricky acquisition, all before morning tea.

The drawbacks of leaving private practice after only a few years, or perhaps never joining in the first instance, are admittedly many. Most notable is the decreased opportunity to develop first-class technical skills. Whilst years spent drafting and re-drafting documents may feel like a long stay in purgatory, they instil in you a style and competence that will serve you extremely well as your career progresses. Whilst in-house roles can offer excellent mentorship and training, the structure of in-house teams are certainly not as conducive to technical development in private practice.

Depending on where you sit in the in-house vs private practice debate will alter whether you view ‘working with only one client’ as a positive or a negative. Working for just one client encourages strong interdisciplinary relationships between company employees, allows lawyers to cement their value-add as key stakeholders in the business, and enables lawyers to build up an invaluable library of knowledge on their sole client. For a senior in-house lawyer, this is a great vantage point to practise from. For a junior lawyer, the aforementioned perks can certainly still apply. However, the sacrifice of leaving private practice is to deprive yourself of the opportunity to work with a diverse range of clients, the experience of which may inform which in-house role (FMCG vs not-for-profit vs technology) is best suited to you upon leaving private practice.

Morgan Elder

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