Making the move in-house: When is the right time?

Making the move in-house: When is the right time?

Legal practitioners working in law firms are all too familiar with long, unpredictable hours that eat into any semblance of a balanced life outside of work. Early starts, late finishes, and weekend work are common occurrences, but not if you switch to working as an in-house lawyer.

Why move in-house?

Moving from private practice to in-house work is becoming a more popular option among lawyers as it offers regular and less demanding working hours. This helps legal workers to maintain a healthier work/life balance, with time to spend with friends and family or pursuing hobbies outside of work while still progressing in their career.

Some lawyers also prefer the style of work that comes with working in-house; being able to support a company with all their legal issues and seeing a project through from start to finish. Many find this more satisfying than private practice work where they may be working multiple cases each day and only advising on small aspects of each.

Is it time to move in-house?

So, the life of an in-house lawyer sounds appealing to you, but how do you know if and when it’s right for you? The key question to ask is whether you have the right experience. Corporations looking to hire in-house lawyers will typically look for candidates with 2-6 years of post-qualified experience. From this, you’ll have a good foundation of knowledge and experience to set you up well for a successful in-house career.

If you’re newly qualified, then you’ll most likely have to pay your dues in a law firm for at least a couple more years before you think about making the move. If you have more than six years PQE, then moving in-house is not out of the question, but you may be at a competitive disadvantage over your younger peers. Generally speaking, lawyers find it increasingly difficult to secure in-house work the later they leave it in their careers.

How can you improve your chances?

Organisations hiring in-house lawyers will be looking for someone who ideally has relevant experience in a similar environment. If you’ve only worked within the confines of a law firm, then you don’t have the advantage of previous in-house experience. However, you may be given the opportunity to go on placement or secondment within a company.

If you have already completed a secondment, then this experience will put you in good stead when applying for an in-house position. But if you haven’t yet done this, then you will be at a disadvantage due to lack of experience and if you are ever offered the opportunity to complete an in-house secondment, then take it! And don’t be afraid to seek out these kinds of opportunities throughout your career. The more in-house practice you can get during your private practice days, the better positioned you’ll be to secure an attractive in-house role once you do decide to make the move.

A healthy work/life balance may seem like a pipedream for lawyers, but moving in-house can offer this. Is it the right time for you to move in-house?