In-house counsel are expected to be knowledgeable advocates for the corporate entity in any number of diverse areas of the law, and their responsibilities continue to expand. Many business entities prefer to have an attorney present throughout the decision-making process to flag potential legal issues rather than use outside lawyers to fix problems after they arise. Bottom line – there is an expectation that in-house attorneys will provide top-notch legal support in a more cost effective manner.
In-house lawyers work similar hours to their counterparts in private practice. Corporate attorneys do, however, report greater control over when and how those hours are worked. While corporate jobs can offer attorneys greater autonomy, the trade off is the responsibility for every legal issue that arises in the course of the business.
Having only one client leaves corporate counsel more vulnerable to mergers and acquisitions that can result in dramatic organizational restructuring. As for billable hours, the interest in the bottom line means that more pressure than ever is being applied to in-house lawyers to justify their costs.
Salary & Employment Considerations
Although not as high as large firm compensation, corporate salaries tend to be quite generous and often include perks unavailable in other employment settings. Students interested in corporate practice should recognize that entry-level attorney positions are difficult to obtain; only 11% of corporate attorneys practice in-house, while the remaining 89% are employed by private law firms. Instead, a majority of in-house lawyers are culled from private law firms and government agencies after three years (or more) of experience.
Job Seeking Tips
As a student, you can increase your chances of working in-house after gaining post-graduate experience by seeking seek part-time internships in corporate law offices to develop your familiarity with the practice. If you know the type of business you want to work for, choose a law firm or government agency that helps you learn about the area and brings you into contact with the industry.
- In-House Law Departments at the Top 500 Companies*
- Corporate Yellow Book*
- Directory of Corporate Counsel*
- Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC)
- Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA)
- Washington Metropolitan Area Corporate Counsel Association (WMACCA)
- DC Area In-House Legal Departments (pdf)
- GoInhouse Jobs
*Hard copy version available in the OCPD Resource Library