In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

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hiromoto45
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby hiromoto45 » Mon May 17, 2010 1:23 pm

Biglaw takes in a number a URMs but a very inconsequential number of them have a chance at making partner. Some have said URMs get poached from Biglaw to other opportunities like in-house corporate. Through my experience it seems that outside Biglaw, being an URM doesn't matter and the concept is integrated with diversity in general. That including women, people with families, or single people with pets groups.

Is the perpetuation of the poaching concept accurate and if so are there a great number of minorities working in-house? Are their careers stagnant once they make the move? I've seen a number of corporate hierarchy structures and representation of minorities at the senior levels seem as dismal as partners in Biglaw.

luckycurl84
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby luckycurl84 » Mon May 17, 2010 1:33 pm

Is it difficult to go back to a law firm from after being in-house? I'd imagine a GC would have no problem, but what about a senior staff attorney or staff attorney?

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stratocophic
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby stratocophic » Mon May 17, 2010 1:34 pm

Do companies (presumably tech-based companies like Boeing) take patent lawyers in-house, or is corporate the only desirable practice area?

Kochel
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby Kochel » Mon May 17, 2010 1:42 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Thank you for taking questions. I'm a Biglaw associate who's hoping to move in-house in the next few years.

What's the best way to identify and apply for good in-house positions? Obviously if you have a contact at a company that you know is hiring you should apply through that contact, but what about the rest of the time? Headhunter? Job search boards, company websites, and cold mailing? I recently read an article advising associates interested in moving in-house to tell partners about their long-term plans, on the theory that those partners can pass along suitable openings, but to me this just sounds like a good way to set yourself up for a stealth layoff. Would you agree?

Regarding the best time to move, let's say you're a fourth-year associate planning to stay at your firm a few more years, to build up more experience and enable yourself to go in-house at a more senior level, but then you hear about an opening for a staff attorney at a great company you'd love to work for. Should you cut short your time at the firm and jump on the opportunity, or is it a wiser long-term move to stay put and continue building your skillset as originally planned? Obviously very fact-dependent and subjective, but I'd appreciate hearing your thoughts on the trade-off.

Once you have an interview lined up, how do you distinguish yourself from other applicants? Any tips on succeeding after you've made the move? Are there meaningful opportunities for advancement in a large company (e.g., Fortune 500), or are you pretty much locked into the position and pay you entered with?

Thanks again. Anonymous because I've recently discussed these topics with colleagues/friends.


Excellent questions.

On applying: I'd work through headhunters. ITE most of them are deluged with applicants, but since you still have your associate job you'd be more appealing to a headhunter than a laid-off associate. Headhunters will also specialize, and the good ones will have leads in the industry that you're interested in. Use multiple headhunters where possible. I can't opine on job search boards (no experience with them).

DO NOT talk to partners at your firm if all you're doing at this stage is surveying the landscape. Only talk to partners if you have offers in hand that you're weighing--even then, only talk to younger partners whom you can trust. They'll be just as likely to know about openings as the senior parnters. Influential senior partners can and will use information against you. This might not be true of your firm, of course, but I think it's best to be cautious.

Timing: On the whole, junior in-house positions are more plentiful than senior positions. Most companies like to promote from within. (This will vary depending on scale, of course; at huge companies there will be numerous layers in the pyramid.) Also, assuming you've been in Biglaw for several years already, you likely have the experience/expertise necessary for an in-house job (unless it's litigation), and three more years of Biglaw won't give you a proportionately better-looking resume. ITE, especially, I'd say you take the junior-level offer now rather than wait for a few more years.

Interviewing: I think the best theme to focus on in interview prep is your ability to work in a team environment. At the heart of in-house work is cooperating with non-lawyer colleagues, often as the only lawyer involved, to advance a project or solve problems. As a Biglaw exile myself, I can infer a lot about your subject-matter knowledge just from looking at your resume and asking basic questions. But I want to know how good you are at working with non-lawyers, whether you are overly assertive or overly submissive, etc.

Career development: Variable. At some companies you'd be stuck in a junior-level position indefinitely, and compensation tends to plateau. Most companies have lifer attorneys. But most companies also recognize that careers need to be developed, and even if formal promotions aren't frequent, you'll likely be given more responsibility as time goes by. If you're really ambitious and want to become GC someday, you should (i) either start off at a small company and develop the business/managerial skills and then try to lateral your way upward or (ii) start with a big company to get your foot in the door and then make additional lateral moves until you're the #2 lawyer who'll inherit the job when #1 retires.

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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Mon May 17, 2010 1:58 pm

webbylu87 wrote:As someone who is interested in in-house corporate work but will not be attending HLS (but a T25), what sort of stratification do you see in terms of your colleagues having T14 degrees? Is there a glass ceiling for those coming from more regional schools? Or is this typically untrue considering this is a career move you pursue later in your career once you've had the chance to prove yourself? Is a BigLaw background necessary for becoming an in-house lawyer?

Seconding this question. I am attending Cornell, and the "four years of Biglaw then in-house" path is ideal to me. I know I'm at a T14, but I don't feel I have an HYS sort of "golden ticket" to any career path I want, especially ITE. What sorts of LS pedigrees do you see at your company?

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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby Kochel » Mon May 17, 2010 2:03 pm

DoubleChecks wrote:thanks for your advice

about how many yrs have you been working at your in-house position?

to best prepare for the transition from biglaw to corporate in-house, what type of work should one focus on/gain experience in?

and i recall you having said (possibly in another thread) that your bonus isnt it cash comp but ESOs or something of the like...usually what is the approximate monetary value of that?


I've been in house for several years, after 4 years of Biglaw.

There's no magic skill set to develop if you want to go in-house. But general corporate experience (securities, M&A, contracts) will always be portable, as will expertise in highly-regulated practice areas, such as finance, telecomm, transportation, energy. (Companies in those sectors will always need internal lawyers with the relevant background.) Postpone your specialization as long as you can, in order to ensure breadth of experience.

What you should avoid--if in-house is your ultimate goal--are litigation (except insurance defense) and other "service" disciplines, like tax, ERISA, bankruptcy, environmental, etc. There are in-house openings in those areas, but they're not common; even big companies may have only one litigator or tax lawyer (who doubles as ERISA lawyer), for example.

As far as my comp., I'll opt for discretion, except to say that bonuses would usually be a mix of cash and equity, and that in some industries it's common for total bonuses to be 15-30% of base salary.

Kochel
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby Kochel » Mon May 17, 2010 3:29 pm

hiromoto45 wrote:Biglaw takes in a number a URMs but a very inconsequential number of them have a chance at making partner. Some have said URMs get poached from Biglaw to other opportunities like in-house corporate. Through my experience it seems that outside Biglaw, being an URM doesn't matter and the concept is integrated with diversity in general. That including women, people with families, or single people with pets groups.

Is the perpetuation of the poaching concept accurate and if so are there a great number of minorities working in-house? Are their careers stagnant once they make the move? I've seen a number of corporate hierarchy structures and representation of minorities at the senior levels seem as dismal as partners in Biglaw.


I'm afraid I don't have any real answers to these questions; unfortunately, URMs are, in fact, under-represented in my field (both in Biglaw and in-house).

Kochel
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby Kochel » Mon May 17, 2010 3:38 pm

luckycurl84 wrote:Is it difficult to go back to a law firm from after being in-house? I'd imagine a GC would have no problem, but what about a senior staff attorney or staff attorney?


I've known a handful of lawyers who've moved from in-house jobs back to firms. In each case that I've seen the lawyer went back to the original law firm, after deciding that in-house life wasn't right for him/her. I believe that it's pretty hard to make this reverse transition--you have to overcome the firm's skepticism about your commitment to private practice, your ability to generate new business and even your level of expertise (one year of in-house work doesn't equal the amount of work you would have done had you stayed at the firm for an add'l year), not to mention convincing the firm that you're preferable to other lateral candidates.

In any case, the biggest reason this doesn't happen often is that once you've lived life without the billable hour, you never ever want to return.

Kochel
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby Kochel » Mon May 17, 2010 4:01 pm

webbylu87 wrote:As someone who is interested in in-house corporate work but will not be attending HLS (but a T25), what sort of stratification do you see in terms of your colleagues having T14 degrees? Is there a glass ceiling for those coming from more regional schools? Or is this typically untrue considering this is a career move you pursue later in your career once you've had the chance to prove yourself? Is a BigLaw background necessary for becoming an in-house lawyer?


I'll use my own company for an example. Of the 20+ lawyers I've worked with since I started here, more than half were T14. But I don't view that as an inherently meaningful statistic--you certainly don't have to have gone to a top-ranked school to be hired. It has also not been important in promotion/retention decisions.

The important stat is that 100% of these lawyers originally worked at Biglaw firms. That's where the experience and skills relevant to my company's industry get developed. I don't doubt that midsized and smaller law firms can pump out well-trained lawyers. But as a general matter those firms don't handle the types of financial services matters that my company deals with. And when we hire lawyers, we almost always look for specific industry experience. Companies in other industries might be more open to hiring non-Biglaw lawyers, particularly if they rely on non-Biglaw firms as outside counsel.

kh86
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby kh86 » Mon May 17, 2010 4:10 pm

Do you have any insight on in-house patent law jobs? Do they work similarly to your position or is it different?

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kittenmittons
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby kittenmittons » Mon May 17, 2010 4:29 pm

What region of the country?

Kochel
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby Kochel » Mon May 17, 2010 5:23 pm

kittenmittons wrote:What region of the country?


Northeast.

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facetious
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby facetious » Mon May 17, 2010 5:33 pm

Thanks for taking questions. You have been an incredibly useful poster, both in this thread and in several others.

How does your company view government work experience, such as with the SEC?

Also, are there opportunities for 1Ls and 2Ls to have summer in-house positions? I have heard of several in-house departments for big name corporations that have 1L and 2L summer positions. Do you have any information how beneficial these positions are, considering that it seems like they would not lead to permanent offers since in-house hires are primarily from Biglaw? How does an in-house summer position translate into future Biglaw and in-house employment?

Thanks again.

Kochel
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby Kochel » Mon May 17, 2010 5:34 pm

stratocophic wrote:Do companies (presumably tech-based companies like Boeing) take patent lawyers in-house, or is corporate the only desirable practice area?


I don't have any real insight on patent hiring (my company doesn't have an in-house IP lawyer), but I do know that manufacturers and tech companies do employ IP lawyers, for obvious reasons. Also, since boutique firms occupy a bigger slice of the IP legal market, I'd bet that Biglaw isn't the only recruiting venue for in-house employers. I just don't have a sense as to the relative numbers involved.

Kochel
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby Kochel » Mon May 17, 2010 5:51 pm

facetious wrote:Thanks for taking questions. You have been an incredibly useful poster, both in this thread and in several others.

How does your company view government work experience, such as with the SEC?

Also, are there opportunities for 1Ls and 2Ls to have summer in-house positions? I have heard of several in-house departments for big name corporations that have 1L and 2L summer positions. Do you have any information how beneficial these positions are, considering that it seems like they would not lead to permanent offers since in-house hires are primarily from Biglaw? How does an in-house summer position translate into future Biglaw and in-house employment?

Thanks again.


I confess I haven't given much thought to the existence of in-house summer associate positions. To the extent they exist, I'd have thought they'd be valuable for 1Ls, but that it could be foolish for a 2L to choose such an opportunity over a law firm summer position, both because of uncertainty about a permanent offer and because new graduates shouldn't pigeonhole themselves so early into their careers. The best way to develop fundamental legal skills is at a law firm, working for multiple clients, getting exposed to a broad variety of legal issues. As good as in-house work can be, it is somewhat narrowing, because you observe only one client in action and learn and practice only one way of approaching issues.

My company would look very favorably on legal experience at the SEC or any other agency that my company is regulated by.

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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby drdolittle » Mon May 17, 2010 7:10 pm

Thanks for your informative posts. Can you outline a typical day for you now and how it differs from your days working at a firm? Are in-house jobs inherently less satisfying intellectually, or just plain boring, compared to firm work?

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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby Kochel » Mon May 17, 2010 9:39 pm

drdolittle wrote:Thanks for your informative posts. Can you outline a typical day for you now and how it differs from your days working at a firm? Are in-house jobs inherently less satisfying intellectually, or just plain boring, compared to firm work?


I suppose there are lots of ways at looking at the differences between in-house work and firm work. One difference, at least in my experience, is that I provide a lot more actual advice than I did at the firm. Colleagues come with discrete questions--review this provision of a contract or this cover letter, tell me if Idea X is permissible, lay out the requirements to implement Strategy Y--and the legal department is an internal resource to channel ideas and strategies appropriately. On the other hand, law firms are more often called upon to implement--draft major contracts, make regulatory fillings, etc.

Another difference is that I spend far more of my time actually interfacing with my internal clients than I ever did as an outside lawyer. A typical day includes several internal meetings, staff meetings, conference calls and working group sessions--the sort of stuff you'd almost never ask outside lawyers to participate in (too costly). This is where a lot of in-house lawyering gets done. For many Biglaw associates, the only "clients" they work with closely are the in-house lawyers; they don't get to participate much in the sausage-making, so to speak, and often have a poor conception of the real world implications of the advice they give.

I wouldn't want anyone to think that in-house lawyering is all talking, though. I spend a good chunk of my time drafting and reviewing contracts, doing regulatory filings, taking care of corporate governance paperwork--i.e., real lawyer-work. When added to the people-based advice-giving, it offers a rounded, fulfilling palette of work. I certainly find it to be intellectually challenging--but I'd acknowledge that there's less cutting edge Law-with-a-capital-L involved than there is for senior Biglaw lawyers.

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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 18, 2010 9:16 am

Amazing thread. Thank you.

Do you have any tips for surviving big law for those 3-6 years? In this economy, I'm a little concerned I'll be let go before this point and I won't have in-house as an option.

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DavidYurman85
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby DavidYurman85 » Tue May 18, 2010 12:26 pm

When you interviewed for positions, was your UG major a factor? Similarly, if you had any, was any of your pre-law work experience relevant?

I don't have a background in econ, fin, bis or engin, so I'm wondering if that will come back to haunt me - even after completing law school and big law?

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Cardboardbox
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby Cardboardbox » Tue May 18, 2010 12:50 pm

Thanks for taking the time, I don't have any questions currently but it's been extremely insightful to learn everything I've read so far, especially since I'm hoping to go in-house one day as well.

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kittenmittons
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby kittenmittons » Tue May 18, 2010 1:10 pm

Cardboardbox wrote:Thanks for taking the time, I don't have any questions currently but it's been extremely insightful to learn everything I've read so far, especially since I'm hoping to go in-house one day as well.

Kochel
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby Kochel » Tue May 18, 2010 1:11 pm

DavidYurman85 wrote:When you interviewed for positions, was your UG major a factor? Similarly, if you had any, was any of your pre-law work experience relevant?

I don't have a background in econ, fin, bis or engin, so I'm wondering if that will come back to haunt me - even after completing law school and big law?


The biggest factor in in-house hiring will be the quality of your legal experience. In-house lawyers, many of whom are ex-Biglaw themselves, will judge you based on the reputation of the firm(s) on your resume.

Beyond that, everything else is a "soft" factor. What law school and/or UG you attended might be helpful, but likely won't be a negative factor. Your pre-law work experience and UG major will be irrelevant unless pertinent to the company's specific market/industry.

In my personal case, I'm pretty sure it was my Biglaw firm that was the biggest factor. HLS and my undergrad might have helped a little, as there were other attorneys interviewing me from those schools. But I had no pre-law WE to speak of and majored in PoliSci.

bconly
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby bconly » Tue May 18, 2010 1:55 pm

Thanks a lot for taking these questions.

Can you elaborate on what kind of work corporate junior associates tend to do at biglaw firms? What specific skills that you learn as an associate are most portable to in-house gigs (across a variety of industries)?

2009 Prospective
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby 2009 Prospective » Tue May 18, 2010 2:01 pm

Kochel wrote:
DoubleChecks wrote:thanks for your advice

about how many yrs have you been working at your in-house position?

to best prepare for the transition from biglaw to corporate in-house, what type of work should one focus on/gain experience in?

and i recall you having said (possibly in another thread) that your bonus isnt it cash comp but ESOs or something of the like...usually what is the approximate monetary value of that?


I've been in house for several years, after 4 years of Biglaw.

There's no magic skill set to develop if you want to go in-house. But general corporate experience (securities, M&A, contracts) will always be portable, as will expertise in highly-regulated practice areas, such as finance, telecomm, transportation, energy. (Companies in those sectors will always need internal lawyers with the relevant background.) Postpone your specialization as long as you can, in order to ensure breadth of experience.

What you should avoid--if in-house is your ultimate goal--are litigation (except insurance defense) and other "service" disciplines, like tax, ERISA, bankruptcy, environmental, etc. There are in-house openings in those areas, but they're not common; even big companies may have only one litigator or tax lawyer (who doubles as ERISA lawyer), for example.

As far as my comp., I'll opt for discretion, except to say that bonuses would usually be a mix of cash and equity, and that in some industries it's common for total bonuses to be 15-30% of base salary.


Thanks for taking questions.

I've heard that working in labor and employment law with a big firm can provide a good path to in-house. How true do you think this is? I realize you touched upon this somewhat above but are there any other practice areas that provide an easier pathway to in-house positions? Also, I'm fairly interested in doing litigation earlier in my career. Would this tend to shut me out of in-house jobs later on? For someone with no business background, are there any upper-level classes you would highly recommend as useful in your career path? If I were to take any classes in the business school, are there any that might be useful?

Kochel
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby Kochel » Tue May 18, 2010 10:41 pm

bconly wrote:Can you elaborate on what kind of work corporate junior associates tend to do at biglaw firms? What specific skills that you learn as an associate are most portable to in-house gigs (across a variety of industries)?


Some categories of corporate work that every junior-to-midlevel Biglaw corporate associate should be familiar with:

1. Corporate governance--basic drafting of minutes, resolutions, consents, capitalization tables; basic familiarity with Delaware (and other states') corporate regimes and choice-of-corporate-entity considerations.

2. Securities work--SEC public company filings (registration statements, 1934 Act filings); option plans and associated agreements and capitalization tables; insider trade reporting (Section 16); Reg. FD issues and other securities fraud issues. Not as relevant for non-public companies (unless they've got an IPO in their future!).

3. M&A and other transactional work--asset purchase agreements, merger agreements, private equity fund/hedge fund formation work. General principles of reps & warranties, indemnification, confidentiality/privacy and other generic contract drafting skills.

All of the above skills will be used by your average corporate in-house lawyer. (This wouldn't apply to in-house lawyers hired to do specialized work.) These are the kinds of tasks that general counsels don't want to hire outside firms to do except when big transactions are involved. It probably goes without saying that law school will generally do a pretty lousy job of teaching these skills; they really need to be learned on the job.




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