Are In-House Roles the New Legal Career Path of Choice?

Lawyers have always been divided into categories: litigator vs. contract drafter; big-city vs. provincial; business vs. private client; but one of the other classic divides is becoming less rigid, that of working in-house vs. in private practice.

Recent statistics compiled by a global legal recruiter, Laurence Simons, show that companies across Europe, Africa and the Middle East have been beefing up their internal legal teams, and will continue to do so over the next few years. What makes this particularly interesting is that the types of lawyers being recruited are typically found only private practice, such as tax lawyers. Other specialisms being increasingly handled in-house include corporate and commercial work, and compliance, in-house activity levels for which are increasing year on year.

Traditionally, lawyers have crossed the divide to working in-house after a few years in private practice for the better work-life balance than is usually afforded when working in private practice. But as a career move, it was widely regarded as a backwards step towards an exercise in delegation. These new trends prevailing in corporate culture create a profound sense that ambitious lawyers can lead fulfilling careers within the in-house sector.

Some analysts point to the greater expenditure predictability companies enjoy when they can handle much of their legal work internally, while it can also be seen to indicate growing levels of confidence in the global economy. But perhaps it should also be understood within the wider context of a changing profession, in which new-generation legal services providers are placing their consultants within their clients’ offices and teams, changing the expectations of how legal services can be delivered.

However it is explained, the variety of employment options for lawyers of all stripes can only be a good thing.