Author: Husnara Begum
“I’m approaching the end of my training contract with a large London-based law firm. Upon qualification I want to specalise in commercial contracts work so am seriously thinking about making applications for in-house roles. However, one of my close contacts advised me against moving in-house as a newly qualified (NQ) solicitor and thinks I should do at least a couple of years in private practice first. Is this good advice?”
Put simply, there’s never a wrong or right moment in a solicitor’s career to move in-house. My advice is go for it as and when something attractive comes up rather than waiting until you get to a desired PQE because there’s no guarantee your dream job will come up at that point. I suspect your contact advised you against moving in-house as an NQ because if you make the switch too early in your career and decide the grass isn’t greener it can prove quite challenging to return to private practice. Other reasons also include a general shortage of in-house NQ roles with most employers favouring candidates with at two years’ PQE and a potential lack of supervision and training.
The point regarding supervision, however, will vary greatly depending on the nature of the hiring organisation and the size and make-up of its in-house legal team. For instance, some teams are comparable to medium-sized law firms with lawyers even specialising in different areas of law. I’d also like to add that in-house roles lend themselves to your chosen area of specialism.
I’d therefore recommend doing a dual-track search and applying for both in-house and private practice roles at the same time. This will enable you to do a proper comparison between any offers you receive. Also, when determining whether an in-house role is right for you it’s worth considering the following points: sector the hiring organisation operates in; size and structure of the in-house legal team (including reporting lines); backgrounds of the senior lawyers in the team; culture (that goes without saying); day-to-day responsibilities; career progression; and benefits. Much of this will become clearer during the interview process, which is why often it’s better to make the application because who knows – you might be pleasantly surprised.
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