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Placing you in the heart of a business
In-house legal positions have always been highly sought after by solicitors seeking a career option that will get them closer to the inner-workings of business, allow them to contribute more directly to strategic commercial decisions or get them more involved in a particular industry they have a passion for. With strong bonus structures available, basic salaries becoming increasingly competitive and a broadening range of companies looking to expand their legal in-house capabilities, it has never been a better time to consider an in-house move.
Our in-house team covers permanent, interim and fixed term contract recruitment across the UK with consultants based in London and the regions. As specialist recruiters in the field of legal in-house, our team of consultants are well known by senior legal counsel and company directors of some of the largest companies in the UK and abroad. They are comfortable filling all styles of temporary and permanent in-house positions including general counsel, heads of legal, legal counsel, risk and compliance, document review, paralegal, and company secretarial roles, at clients including start-ups, SMEs, FTSE 100 PLCs and large global blue-chip multi-nationals.
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Learn what it takes to be an in-house lawyer from Volvo Group UK's legal director. An exclusive Chadwick Nott interview.
The challenge of senior private practice lawyers wanting to move in-house
I have just spent 40 minutes on the phone with a 20 year PQE Insolvency Partner from a highly respected law firm informing them that unfortunately they did not fit the profile for the General Counsel role I am recruiting for. Having to deal with their complete indignation and total outrage at their rejection, I thought it may be worth getting some thoughts down in blog form.
Before writing this blog, I also sought the input of two clients of mine – both whom are very experienced General Counsel (GC).
So why was the Partner so unhappy with me? Clearly they found it hard to believe that a highly intelligent, experienced, successful lawyer at the top of their game is not suitable for an in-house role? Are they right to be angry?
In my view it comes down to a question of perspective. Most in-house lawyers will have worked in private practice at some point and therefore have a balanced view of the challenge of working in both environments. As in the case of the Insolvency Partner,* most private practice lawyers won’t have worked in-house and therefore their perspective and their understanding of their suitability for an in-house role can be skewed. It is also my experience that some senior private practice lawyers hold a view that in-house lawyers are secondary or inferior to private practice lawyers.
The view of one of my GC clients is that in essence law firms are a bunch of individuals grouped together in serviced offices with the goal of fee earning. They expressed the view that senior private practice lawyers work in a bubble and that they are King or Queen of their own domain and sometimes struggle to understand what happens outside of that bubble. He felt that as General Counsel you cannot afford to work in a bubble, you need to be very accessible to understand and support the business with its commercial aims. As an in-house lawyer, his main focus is not about fee earning but about commercial support and protection of the business.
Choices, priorities and money - making a move in-house
The decision to make a move in-house can be reached at various stages of one’s legal career. For some, this comes very early as the carrot of partnership holds no appeal at all; yet for most it comes during the senior associate years, when partnership is either not desired or simply not going to happen for a variety of reasons. It should be remembered that ability is only 25% of the equation when going for promotion and especially when going for partnership. A guardian angel/sponsor is at least 25% or possibly 50% with the remainder being a combination of timing and luck. Deftness of touch and being fleet of foot like a politician can be very advantageous and is a key skill in corporate life for climbing the career ladder… Emotional intelligence always plays a key part too.
When making a career move money will always play a part, as we all aspire to a certain standard of living and have mortgages etc. I will be upfront and say that partnership will often bring the most financial rewards if that is your key driver. A successful career as partner can set up the next generation as well with trophy assets such as an Alpine Ski Lodge, or a villa in the most exclusive areas of the Mediterranean being well within reach. One can review the pages of Country Life Magazine with intent rather than just a pipe dream… In around 50% of cases, a move in-house will necessitate a cut in base pay. However, in terms of total compensation this is often not the case once bonuses, car allowances, pensions and other benefits are taken into account. Pay is structured in a very different way within all corporations and I suggest that it is always important to look at total compensation before looking at bonus potential. Bonus potential can be a real driver and where it is a large part of compensation, it is very simple – you have to back yourself and have faith in the company’s model and product or service. Read more...