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By Adam Zdravkovic

In recent years, the legal profession has seen a shift in career route and development preferences. The road to partner within a firm is perhaps no longer the shining prospect it once was. By contrast, progressing to a senior in-house position is becoming more attractive to a growing number of ambitious solicitors. In part 1 of my In-House vs Private Practice series, we take a look at why more solicitors are choosing to work in-house.

What the shift looks like

According to a recent study by 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.

The statistics also showed that the number of in-house lawyers grew by 3.6 percent between July 2014 and July 2015, to 26,242, just over a fifth of the profession. In that time, the number of organisations taking on in-house counsel rose by five percent – most commonly within commerce and industry.

This is largely (although not always) due to many organisations finding it more economical to establish an in-house legal team rather than keep a firm on retainer - it also allows them to have more control of their legal spend (as most of them will still deal with external solicitors of course, although they are better able to decide which matters warrant the instruction of external counsel and what the cost should be set at).

What's driving in-house popularity?

Although working within private practice offers the benefit of a generous salary, structure in your career, and clear career progression markers from solicitor to associate and onwards to partner, the new generation of solicitors have been shown to value purpose over salary and climbing the hierarchal ladder.

Below are just a few of the career benefits that can make an in-house role more appealing to modern-day solicitors:

1. The opportunity to develop skills outside of law

Due to the highly collaborative nature of an in-house lawyer’s working life, in house solicitors have the opportunity to develop new skills outside of law, such as project management and the ability to provide proactive business advice, as opposed to following reactive instructions from a client. They essentially work alongside the client rather than for them.

2. More opportunities for collaboration

Where private practice solicitors are largely restricted to working in isolation within closed spaces and only focusing on law, in-house lawyers have the opportunity to work with various departments within a commercial business, such as the finance department, human resources and marketing teams – and can see the value of the advice they provide in practice.

3. Greater ownership of outcomes

It’s often easier for in-house counsel to point to specific favourable outcomes for their company and take credit for those outcomes. A product counsel can point to a new successful product they guided through the development process and feel a sense of responsibility in what they have achieved for the business.

4. The lawyer becomes the decision-maker

In-house lawyers take on business responsibility in several ways. First, to the extent the lawyer supervises outside counsel, the lawyer usually handles those relationships. Second, the in-house lawyer often gap-fills any business decisions that aren’t owned by other people within the company. Finally, the in-house lawyer may share in making business decisions with the commercial directors in the organisation. Often, the in-house counsel’s co-workers prize the lawyer’s business input as much as his/her legal analysis.

Click here to read more about how the transition from private practice to in house!

About the author

Adam Zdravkovic – who initially pursued a career as a trainee solicitor – is a legal specialist and Divisional Manager for Search Legal in Manchester. He has a thorough knowledge of the industry and over 7 years of experience providing legal recruitment solutions to a variety of companies, organisations and law firms. Adam focuses on in-house recruitment for commerce and industry clients, and manages a team of private practice and international legal recruitment specialists.

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