Posted in Blog on 25 Jul 2018
The number of solicitors working in-house is growing at a faster rate than those in private practice and is predicted to reach 35% of the profession by 2020 according to The Law Society. Our In-house recruitment team have witnessed this surge in demand over the past few years, as well as a shift change in businesses developing their graduate and trainee teams and offering training contracts to those embarking on a legal career.
An increasingly-appealing career choice, working In-house requires a set of skills and experience that is often in addition to or a variation of those required for roles in private practice. Here, In-house Consultant Tom Bagley looks at precisely what it takes to make it as an In-house lawyer...
This is not always imperative to the role, but experience in the sector always gives candidates a competitive edge as it demonstrates understanding of the challenges within the industry, and the processes that other stakeholders in the business may experience. If you have knowledge of the law within that specific sector, so much the better.
Even without direct experience, it’s always useful for a candidate to have a general awareness of how to transfer their own sector expertise and apply it as best as possible.
One of the biggest challenges a new company lawyer may have is convincing the business that they are a value-added resource instead of a cost to the business, particularly if the In-house function is new or at an embryonic stage internally. In our experience, legal professionals who add tangible value by contributing to business strategy or offering ideas that may save the business time/money/resource in the long run (implementing an automation process for low level/value commercial contracts for example) will stand out from their counterparts.
Whilst not true in all cases, the bulk of in-house work tends to be Commercial (contracts, agreements, deals, data protection, IP etc…) and secondary is corporate (mergers & acquisitions, private equity, corporate finance etc…). Lawyers with wider experience however (property/construction, employment, litigation), will add further value to the business and potentially negate the need to spend on external lawyers.
Those who have worked across different jurisdictions and/or speak other languages will all go some way towards making an in-house lawyer an invaluable resource.
And, whilst businesses will initially look at a candidates existing skills and experience, those who demonstrate they are continually willing to learn and develop through CPD courses and potentially new qualifications, will thrive (whilst also giving the business’ clients/customers/3rd parties confidence that they are dealing with an industry expert).
Top of the wish list for the Clients we work with is the need for In-house lawyers to be able to demonstrate strong commercial acumen and business sense. Businesses often get frustrated with legal professionals who just quote ‘the law’ and aren’t open minded to the business’ strategies. A good In-house Lawyer needs to be able to not only understand the business that they operate in but be skilled enough to persuade other stakeholders about their stance at any given time and communicate the impact on the wider business if their advice is not heeded. A general awareness of their own appetite to risk is beneficial in such circumstances.
Whilst only applicable in some cases, Lawyers who undertake business development opportunities to support growth strategies are regarded highly – whether this is in bringing new customers on board or looking into other marketable opportunities.
In-house Lawyers often have to liaise with individuals at all levels within an organisation - from c-level Directors to 1st line sales staff; encountering difficult discussions with the CEO one day, to enforcing a legally based decision with sales reps the next. It’s therefore vital to build rapport and relationships with all stakeholders to encourage necessary buy-in to legal advice and judgement.
The ability to handle and manage a panel of external legal counsel(s), acknowledging when specialist advice is required and sometimes battling for a commercial win for the business when it’s required is a hugely beneficial skill to have, and once again, will prove immensely valuable to the business, and cement your role within it.
Tom Bagley is an experienced Recruitment Consultant with our In-house legal recruitment team.
If you would like to talk in confidence about an In-house move or want to know more about the market then you can contact our London office on 0203 846 3071, Birmingham on 0121 272 7371 or Manchester on 0161 233 6360.
You can reach out to Tom directly by email on firstname.lastname@example.org.