In-house vs. firm – which one is right for you?

Kickstarting your career in law begins with one big question: will you choose to work in-house for a corporation, or as part of a private practice?

If you don’t instantly know the answer, you aren’t alone. In fact, the jury is still out on which offers the best experience for freshly qualified legal professionals: both come with their own unique selling points and drawbacks. The decision you make will depend on your own ambitions and your preferred environment, but choose wisely: this will shape your career for the foreseeable future and determine your day-to-day. Before you rush to a conclusion, let’s weigh up the pros and cons of either option:

Working in-house

Many companies have their own in-house legal department, which operates under the direction of a general counsel. As a member of an in-house legal team, you can expect to deal with a diverse range of issues including risk corporate compliance, mergers and acquisitions, property transactions and employment matters to name but a few. In essence, the legal team is similar to any other expense a company may incur such as sales and marketing or IT.

According to figures from the Law Society, the number of solicitors working in-house is growing at a faster rate than those in private practice, and is predicted to reach 35 per cent of the profession by 2020. It’s easy to see why: after all, working as part of an in-house legal team certainly has its perks. On the career development front, there is greater willingness than ever before to train up and invest heavily in junior lawyers. Starting in-house may also be beneficial in exposing budding lawyers to commercial challenges at any early stage, putting them in a better position to advise corporate clients later down the line.

When it comes to maintaining a healthy work-life balance, the in-house lawyer is lucky in the sense that their hours are usually the standard 9-5. However, facing limited resources, tight budgets, a lack of support and greater breadth of advice required, working late is not an unfamiliar concept to most in-house lawyers. Nevertheless, those working in-house benefit from a front row seat to the outcome of their advice; they can enjoy instant gratification from seeing the results of their efforts there and then.

Life in a law firm

The appeal of a position at a law firm is undeniable. When we think of private practices, we picture prestigious offices with lavish interiors, high salaries and experienced industry heavyweights leading the way. Of course, there’s more to it than that. For a start, the working environment in a small, specialist regional firm will be very different to that of a large City firm operating on a global basis. Should you choose to work in a law firm, this will be the next big question you have to answer.

Whether big or small, there are certain perks that come with this side of the profession. Working in a private practice offers lawyers the opportunity to work with a diverse range of clients rather than just the one. This can often translate into more sophisticated work which will ultimately be more intellectually challenging, but rewarding.

On the flip side, it’s hard not to consider the negative connotations of life in a law firm: each waking hour is a billable hour, so there isn’t necessarily a limit to the work you take on every day (and night.) If you are able to successfully separate your work and personal life, however, you will reap the benefits of managing your own workload and dealing with your own clients.

Making your mind up

Nobody can make the decision for you, but don’t hesitate to reach out to professionals from both in-house teams and law firms to gain insight into either option. Most will be all too happy to help. For further advice on the law firm vs. In-house dilemma, get in touch with our team today.