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Advice Moving from Big Law to In-House


MasterChief

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MasterChief
  • Applicant

I'm starting work at one of the large BaySt firms soon & I think I would like to move into an in-house position after about 2-4 years of working at my firm. Can you please advise me on what I can do to make that transition successful. 

1) Should my practice area at my firm be litigation or transactional (or does it matter)?

2) Is there anything I can do to better make myself visible to potential recruiters for in-house positions? 

3) How do most people transition from big law into in-house. Do they simply keep an eye out for job postings, or make themselves known to recruiters? 

4) And any other advice you can give me with respect to the transition.

Thanks!

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JackoMcSnacko
  • Lawyer

What kind of "in-house" do you want to do?  Or alternatively what kind of characteristics do you want your in-house job to have? Maybe start there because in-house jobs aren't homogenous and all answers to your questions change depending on what your goal is. 

 

 

Edited by JackoMcSnacko
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MasterChief
  • Applicant

Thanks @JackoMcSnacko. The main factor that is driving me to in-house is the work-life balance. At the start of my career, I know I'll be more than happy to put in the hours that my current firm would like. However, once I have a kid and settle down with my soon-to-be fiancé, I know those hours will start to get old quick. 

Now, it doesn't have to be a 9-5 strictly, but better than Bay hours. 

The type of work is not as important to me; I have found that I'm pretty adaptable and happy doing any type of work. It doesn't mean that I don't have interests, it's just that I'm not picky and because of my curiosity, I tend to find enjoyment in even the most mundane and repetitive tasks. 

I've heard a lot of folks go to TD and other banks, but who I work for is not much of a concern. 

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Conge
  • Lawyer
10 hours ago, MasterChief said:

The type of work is not as important to me

 who I work for is not much of a concern. 

Well then you should just take the first in-house job that is willing to hire you. /s

Seriously, though, what you do and who you work with/for are basically the two most important factors in choosing employment that makes you happy.

Next would hours/modes of work, and then compensation, IMHO.

My advice would be to spend 3-5 years in private practice figuring out what kind of work you like, who you like working with, how you like to work, and what kind of compensation you can live with. That will make it much easier to narrow down your in-house options.

To answer your questions directly: 

1) Should my practice area at my firm be litigation or transactional (or does it matter)? It should be the area that (1) you like and (2) has work for you. Generally speaking, there are more transactional in-house jobs than litigation in-house jobs, but both exist. 

2) Is there anything I can do to better make myself visible to potential recruiters for in-house positions? Be really good at your job so clients notice you. Keep your online profile (e.g.,, LinkedIn) up to date. 

3) How do most people transition from big law into in-house. Do they simply keep an eye out for job postings, or make themselves known to recruiters? It's all over the map. Client poaching, recruiters, applying to jobs on LinkedIn, word of mouth/personal recommendations, etc. In my experience (having worked in-house for 4 different companies), word of mouth has been very important. 

4) And any other advice you can give me with respect to the transition. Focus on being good at your private practice job for now. 

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MasterChief
  • Applicant
8 hours ago, Conge said:

Well then you should just take the first in-house job that is willing to hire you. /s

Seriously, though, what you do and who you work with/for are basically the two most important factors in choosing employment that makes you happy.

Next would hours/modes of work, and then compensation, IMHO.

My advice would be to spend 3-5 years in private practice figuring out what kind of work you like, who you like working with, how you like to work, and what kind of compensation you can live with. That will make it much easier to narrow down your in-house options.

To answer your questions directly: 

1) Should my practice area at my firm be litigation or transactional (or does it matter)? It should be the area that (1) you like and (2) has work for you. Generally speaking, there are more transactional in-house jobs than litigation in-house jobs, but both exist. 

2) Is there anything I can do to better make myself visible to potential recruiters for in-house positions? Be really good at your job so clients notice you. Keep your online profile (e.g.,, LinkedIn) up to date. 

3) How do most people transition from big law into in-house. Do they simply keep an eye out for job postings, or make themselves known to recruiters? It's all over the map. Client poaching, recruiters, applying to jobs on LinkedIn, word of mouth/personal recommendations, etc. In my experience (having worked in-house for 4 different companies), word of mouth has been very important. 

4) And any other advice you can give me with respect to the transition. Focus on being good at your private practice job for now. 

Thank you so much. I agree with you, working a few years in private practice will definitely give me the insight that I need & lack as a 2L to better make this decision. 

I'm having troubles understanding how word of mouth/reputation will help me land an in-house position, I'm missing something. I go in, spend X amount of hours at work, am good with my co-workers and have great client relations; how will that translate to in-house offers? Is it that my clients reach out to recruiters at their company to see if they'll hire me? Not sure if I'm making sense here. 

 

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happydude
  • Lawyer

Definitely go transactional as opposed to litigation if in-house is your goal and you aren't fussed about doing solicitor work vs. barrister work. You can be an in-house litigator too. Particularly, employment law can have lots of litigation and the in-house opportunities in that field are numerous. But unless you are talking about working for an insurance company doing insurance defense - and those in-house jobs tend to be among the lower paying, in my experience - the opportunities for in-house work are far more plentiful on the solicitor side. Do what you like more though above all else. If you prefer litigation that should definitely be your move. I am talking about if you are indifferent.

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Bob Jones
  • Lawyer
On 2/11/2024 at 7:30 PM, MasterChief said:

I'm starting work at one of the large BaySt firms soon & I think I would like to move into an in-house position after about 2-4 years of working at my firm. Can you please advise me on what I can do to make that transition successful. 

1) Should my practice area at my firm be litigation or transactional (or does it matter)?

2) Is there anything I can do to better make myself visible to potential recruiters for in-house positions? 

3) How do most people transition from big law into in-house. Do they simply keep an eye out for job postings, or make themselves known to recruiters? 

4) And any other advice you can give me with respect to the transition.

Thanks!

You're just starting a new job, I would focus as much attention and energy as you can to succeeding on it. You're not setting up yourself for success, if you're already thinking about your exit strategy from a firm you haven't joined yet. 

 

Other opportunities (in house or otherwise) will always be there. Do the best you can at your current job, and then reassess. 

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Dinsdale
  • Lawyer
16 hours ago, MasterChief said:

I'm having troubles understanding how word of mouth/reputation will help me land an in-house position, I'm missing something. I go in, spend X amount of hours at work, am good with my co-workers and have great client relations; how will that translate to in-house offers? Is it that my clients reach out to recruiters at their company to see if they'll hire me? Not sure if I'm making sense here. 

 

What do recruiters have to do with it?  Client decides they really like you, sees they are spending way too much on outside legals, makes you an offer to come in-house.  Or general counsel at Company A needs a new colleague, doesn't want to poach from his own external law firm, so asks his buddy at Company B who he can recommend, and Company B guy says "I really like MasterChief at BigLaw1". 

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Conge
  • Lawyer
16 hours ago, MasterChief said:

Thank you so much. I agree with you, working a few years in private practice will definitely give me the insight that I need & lack as a 2L to better make this decision. 

I'm having troubles understanding how word of mouth/reputation will help me land an in-house position, I'm missing something. I go in, spend X amount of hours at work, am good with my co-workers and have great client relations; how will that translate to in-house offers? Is it that my clients reach out to recruiters at their company to see if they'll hire me? Not sure if I'm making sense here. 

 

It'll become more clear as you get more experience. But take this example: let's say you build a reputation as a really good commercial leasing lawyer. Other lawyers and clients like working with you, in particular the VP of leasing at a REIT client send you a lot of work . Eventually a job opens at said REIT for a real estate lawyer: who do you think she'll reach out to? If she calls other lawyers who have worked with you, what do you think they would say about you? What will her colleagues say about you?  In my experience, that kind of stuff is very important. 

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canuckfanatic
  • Lawyer
21 hours ago, MasterChief said:

I'm having troubles understanding how word of mouth/reputation will help me land an in-house position

Every job I've secured post-articles has been in part in due to word of mouth/reputation. To land my current in-house role, I reached out to two people at the company that I knew (one was a law school classmate, the other volunteered at the same charity). I didn't know either of them particularly well, but they were both willing to vouch for me and help me land the job. 

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Yup. I've had two in house roles, and for both, I was invited to apply and although they were posted for bureaucratic reasons, I was the only person interviewed. The first was an approach from a client I had just won a big case for, and the second was by way of a partner who had mentored me and had been asked by his client to find someone with my particular niche.

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