In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

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Kochel
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby Kochel » Tue May 18, 2010 10:51 pm

DoubleChecks wrote:
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?


I think that in-house jobs for basic litigation are less common than corporate jobs. For most companies, there's not enough ordinary-course litigation activity to justify employing a full-time in-house lawyer, whose main job would be supervising outside counsel and local counsel. A lot of companies might have one litigator compared to 10+ corporate lawyers.

Labor/employment law is arguably a little different. There are some companies whose employee bases are either sufficiently complicated or geographically dispersed to warrant having an in-house employment lawyer. This would be particularly true if there's a lot of immigration work or hiring/layoff activity. But I think there's a philosophical divide between companies that would prefer to have the legal department oversee this work and those where the HR departments want to own it. In the latter case, outside counsel would do a lot of the actual work, but this is an area where companies can negotiate cost-effective retainers with law firms. Obviously, the bigger the company, the more likely that it would have an employment lawyer.

If by "labor" you're referring to union work, that's a different story. Companies with collective bargaining agreements will definitely pay lots of attention to the legal/regulatory issues involved. But I don't have lots of insight into this area.

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danquayle
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby danquayle » Wed Jul 28, 2010 9:21 am

Kochel wrote:
NayBoer wrote:How big is your legal department in terms of attorneys and staff? What sort of work do you typically do, aside from interfacing with outside firms?


In-house legal departments run the gamut from 1 lawyer to hundreds, depending on the size of the company and the complexity of its business. Service sector companies tend to need more lawyers per employee, as do companies in highly regulated industries or in industries that generate lots of litigation.

I'm lucky to be one of a dozen lawyers in my shop--enough to ensure that I don't have to try to do it all myself, but not so many that the place becomes overly hierarchical. In contrast to law firms, in-house legal departments tend to have a more rigid pyramidal structure. In the long run, that can limit promotions and lead to a plateau in seniority. But in-house lawyers are also pretty portable (to other in-house jobs) in normal economic times and so you'll see turnover as people seek greener pastures. And, unlike in law firms, the in-house world doesn't follow the up-or-out model of advancement.


Do you think this would also apply to an in-house lawyer that lacks Big Law experience? (Joined company out of law school)

Kochel
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby Kochel » Wed Jul 28, 2010 8:57 pm

danquayle wrote:
Kochel wrote:
NayBoer wrote:How big is your legal department in terms of attorneys and staff? What sort of work do you typically do, aside from interfacing with outside firms?


In-house legal departments run the gamut from 1 lawyer to hundreds, depending on the size of the company and the complexity of its business. Service sector companies tend to need more lawyers per employee, as do companies in highly regulated industries or in industries that generate lots of litigation.

I'm lucky to be one of a dozen lawyers in my shop--enough to ensure that I don't have to try to do it all myself, but not so many that the place becomes overly hierarchical. In contrast to law firms, in-house legal departments tend to have a more rigid pyramidal structure. In the long run, that can limit promotions and lead to a plateau in seniority. But in-house lawyers are also pretty portable (to other in-house jobs) in normal economic times and so you'll see turnover as people seek greener pastures. And, unlike in law firms, the in-house world doesn't follow the up-or-out model of advancement.


Do you think this would also apply to an in-house lawyer that lacks Big Law experience? (Joined company out of law school)


Like with all post-law-school hiring, the most important factor will be the quality of your work experience. If your first in-house job is substantive and allowed you to develop a high degree of expertise, you should be able to use that to get other in-house jobs.

The problem, in my view, is that there aren't that many in-house jobs you can get right out of law school that will give you experience and training on par with a Biglaw apprenticeship. In-house legal departments are generally not designed to provide programmatic on-the-job training.

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let/them/eat/cake
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby let/them/eat/cake » Wed Jul 28, 2010 9:25 pm

tag.

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drdolittle
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby drdolittle » Wed Jul 28, 2010 9:31 pm

Kochel wrote:The problem, in my view, is that there aren't that many in-house jobs you can get right out of law school that will give you experience and training on par with a Biglaw apprenticeship. In-house legal departments are generally not designed to provide programmatic on-the-job training.


Are there certain fields of law that might be more immune to this than others? For example, I imagine patent prosecution is patent prosecution whether it's done at a biotech or law firm, but of course this would likely not be the case for every specialty...or am I wrong?

BTW, thanks for sticking with this thread by continuing to answer questions. It's been very helpful.

Kochel
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby Kochel » Wed Jul 28, 2010 10:45 pm

drdolittle wrote:
Kochel wrote:The problem, in my view, is that there aren't that many in-house jobs you can get right out of law school that will give you experience and training on par with a Biglaw apprenticeship. In-house legal departments are generally not designed to provide programmatic on-the-job training.


Are there certain fields of law that might be more immune to this than others? For example, I imagine patent prosecution is patent prosecution whether it's done at a biotech or law firm, but of course this would likely not be the case for every specialty...or am I wrong?

BTW, thanks for sticking with this thread by continuing to answer questions. It's been very helpful.


Off the top of my head, there probably are discrete practice areas where the above axiom may not apply. (Heck, there are tens of thousands of in-house jobs; there aren't any universal rules for how to get them.) But there are two features in which Biglaw work will almost always be distinguished from in-house work.

One, at a law firm you will work for multiple clients. Even if you were doing the same kind of work for each client (e.g., patent prosecution), at least you would see a greater variety of approaches, client processes, business models, etc. than you would in-house.
Second, it would be a rare in-house job that made you do as much work per year as a Biglaw job. A year at Biglaw generally gives a lawyer a lot more experience than a year in-house. After several years of practice the differential isn't very meaningful, but not when you're starting out.

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danquayle
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby danquayle » Thu Jul 29, 2010 5:59 pm

Kochel wrote:
danquayle wrote:
Kochel wrote:
NayBoer wrote:How big is your legal department in terms of attorneys and staff? What sort of work do you typically do, aside from interfacing with outside firms?


In-house legal departments run the gamut from 1 lawyer to hundreds, depending on the size of the company and the complexity of its business. Service sector companies tend to need more lawyers per employee, as do companies in highly regulated industries or in industries that generate lots of litigation.

I'm lucky to be one of a dozen lawyers in my shop--enough to ensure that I don't have to try to do it all myself, but not so many that the place becomes overly hierarchical. In contrast to law firms, in-house legal departments tend to have a more rigid pyramidal structure. In the long run, that can limit promotions and lead to a plateau in seniority. But in-house lawyers are also pretty portable (to other in-house jobs) in normal economic times and so you'll see turnover as people seek greener pastures. And, unlike in law firms, the in-house world doesn't follow the up-or-out model of advancement.


Do you think this would also apply to an in-house lawyer that lacks Big Law experience? (Joined company out of law school)


Like with all post-law-school hiring, the most important factor will be the quality of your work experience. If your first in-house job is substantive and allowed you to develop a high degree of expertise, you should be able to use that to get other in-house jobs.

The problem, in my view, is that there aren't that many in-house jobs you can get right out of law school that will give you experience and training on par with a Biglaw apprenticeship. In-house legal departments are generally not designed to provide programmatic on-the-job training.


Well presuming the company had a training program, you got a wide exposure to the entire practice, and had a good deal of client facing interaction. In other words, assume all things equal... does the lack of BigLaw (or any firm, really) experience hurt your portable? I ask because I know a lot of applications will state a number of years of law firm experience as a requirement...

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Stringer6
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby Stringer6 » Thu Jul 29, 2010 6:05 pm

why in god's name are you wasting your time on this website?

Kochel
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby Kochel » Thu Jul 29, 2010 8:29 pm

danquayle wrote:
Kochel wrote:
NayBoer wrote:How big is your legal department in terms of attorneys and staff? What sort of work do you typically do, aside from interfacing with outside firms?




Like with all post-law-school hiring, the most important factor will be the quality of your work experience. If your first in-house job is substantive and allowed you to develop a high degree of expertise, you should be able to use that to get other in-house jobs.

The problem, in my view, is that there aren't that many in-house jobs you can get right out of law school that will give you experience and training on par with a Biglaw apprenticeship. In-house legal departments are generally not designed to provide programmatic on-the-job training.


Well presuming the company had a training program, you got a wide exposure to the entire practice, and had a good deal of client facing interaction. In other words, assume all things equal... does the lack of BigLaw (or any firm, really) experience hurt your portable? I ask because I know a lot of applications will state a number of years of law firm experience as a requirement...
[/quote]

I'd definitely be willing to interview someone with no law firm experience, if his resume led me to believe that his in-house work gave him equivalent experience. This would be particularly true if he had worked at another company in the same industry, because I'd be better able to judge the strength of his background. And the lack of law firm experience would be less important the farther out of law school the person is. Still, for a junior-level in-house position, law firm experience is generally judged to be more valuable.

Kochel
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby Kochel » Thu Jul 29, 2010 8:30 pm

Stringer6 wrote:why in god's name are you wasting your time on this website?


Penance.

Anonymous User
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Oct 09, 2010 11:27 am

Any advice for first year associates at large firms who are stressed?

ToTransferOrNot
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby ToTransferOrNot » Sat Oct 09, 2010 1:12 pm

Do debtor-side bankruptcy/restructuring attorneys have options in in-house practice, or is it really more limited to the Corp/Finance people?

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Noval
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby Noval » Sun Oct 10, 2010 1:40 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Any advice for first year associates at large firms who are stressed?


Do everything you get told to do, be friendly to everyone, even though 80% of people you work with may be anti-social douchebags that came straight from HYS and who are ready to cut your throat anytime just to make it to partner.

Smile, Partners love positive associates who avoid whining, crying, gossiping like some Miss.PMS Associate working at JP Morgan.

If you see things are hard, stressful, long, tell yourself that, if you went into fields such as Medicine, there would be little to no place for advancement and you'll stick with the same lifestyle and limited opportunities for the rest of your life.
With Law, a lot more doors are open, so be happy about it.


If you REALLY want both better lifestyle and stable income earlier, Management Consulting is your best friend and yes, they hire people with Law degrees since Banks, Consulting firms and the click love the way Lawyers think and will be happy to teach them Business in their Mini-MBA programs.

abl
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby abl » Sun Oct 10, 2010 8:04 pm

You recommend biglaw as a great stepping stone / training ground to in-house. What sort of biglaw do you think is preferable: working at a firm's HQs (and being exposed to the broadest range of practice areas) or working at a small satellite office of a firm (and getting much earlier substantive experience)?

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Noval
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Re: In-House Corporate Lawyer Taking Questions

Postby Noval » Sun Oct 10, 2010 9:11 pm

abl wrote:You recommend biglaw as a great stepping stone / training ground to in-house. What sort of biglaw do you think is preferable: working at a firm's HQs (and being exposed to the broadest range of practice areas) or working at a small satellite office of a firm (and getting much earlier substantive experience)?


All you need is working experience on Corporate Law, BigLaw doesn't matter "at all" for In-House, even though it can be a useful asset for job hunting.

Working at a firm's HQ may be great, since you have the broadest range of practice areas, but the complexity of cases may not be there(For some firms) until you already have built some experience, so it may not be a good thing in the long run.

Small satellite offices are probably your best shot, but take what suits you best, the point is to build up experience and make useful contacts.




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