In house or private practice?

There is generally a belief amongst private practice solicitors that in-house legal jobs offer a better work/life balance and a nicer working environment and whilst this can be the case, some may be surprised that they could get the perceived benefits of working in-house at another law firm.

Having assisted and witnessed a number of solicitors make the move into an in-house role from a private practice law firm, I strongly believe the decision requires many factors to be taken into account rather than just weighing up the pros and cons of two options.

It is important to understand that in-house teams can vary greatly in size, some outsource a lot of work and depending on which sector the business operates in can reflect on the type of work required. It is important to look into these points carefully and assess if it’s the right in-house role for you rather than accepting a role because it’s in-house.

For example, some organisations employ only one or two lawyers who are expected to deal with anything and everything even vaguely law-related, no matter how simple or complex. Other businesses have large legal departments divided into numerous teams, each specialising in a different area, similar to that of a private practice law firm.

When I speak to solicitors seeking a move in-house many of them highlight the fact that they want to work closely with one client (the employer) to really understand their business and to see the difference their advice makes and no time recording is required. However, not having to account for time does not mean the working hours are shorter, just as assisting a single client does not make your role simpler.

One point to consider is that in private practice lawyers are required to highlight any risks to clients associated with various courses of action. Whereas, in-house it can be part of your role to both highlight and implement such actions and establish whether those risks would be worth taking. As you can imagine, this involves a level of confidence and responsibility that some may find exciting, whilst others find daunting.

MJN Legal work with both private practice law firms and companies recruiting for in-house roles. We understand this can be a huge decision, one that requires a great deal of thought. I have seen many solicitors either look in-house without having properly thought of the reasons why and others move in-house to the first role offered, rather than for the correct role. I have also assisted many in-house solicitors move back to private practice as they didn’t realise law firms are evolving and some can offer a lot of the perceived benefits to solicitors that in-house offers.

If you are considering a move in-house or into private practice, or for honest, impartial career advice please contact Michael Niven at MJN Legal on 0161 264 3340 /

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