In-house vs Private Practice in Legal - Part 3

By Adam Zdravkovic

In our 3rd and final part of this series, we explore the opportunities for career development within the in-house branch of the UK’s legal profession.

Career development avenues and opportunities

If your aspiration is to become a General Counsel, you will need to be proactive in managing your career to ensure that you are developing new skills each time you take on a new role, either internally or externally.

For example, the next step for a junior lawyer already working in a team might entail gaining broader technical experience in specific areas, taking on responsibility for looking after a particular project or area of the business, or perhaps gaining people management experience.  In contrast, a sole lawyer, once established within the business, might consider growing the legal function, which could well involve putting a business case to the employer for one or a number of new people.  In either case, if such opportunities are not available within the organisation, a change of employer might be required in order to progress.  It is not uncommon for an in-house solicitor to move every two or three years (often between different sectors) in order to progress their career at the right speed.  

Generally speaking, adding new areas of expertise will always improve your prospects.  Whether that involves gaining international experience, exposure to a different sector or taking on responsibility for ad hoc projects, demonstrating an appetite for new challenges will be important. Gaining experience in other areas such as company secretarial, HR and finance can also help to make you a more attractive candidate to external clients.

Another career option for in-house lawyers is to veer towards the commercial side of the business with a view to ultimately adopting a non-legal or quasi-legal role.  Whether this is possible will depend on the culture of the organisation and how it views solicitors and its legal function, the economic climate and your own ambitions and motivations – and indeed your ability as a commercial/finance leader in a business.

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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