In house transition

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Anonymous User
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In house transition

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 20, 2013 3:03 am

I'm sure there's a thread somewhere that would answer this question, but I'd like to learn more about the transition from firms to in houe positions. More specifically, I'm interested in what you can do if you already know some industries in which you'd like to work. I'm a 2L at a T-6 and I'll most likely end up with the lower ranked vault firm (bottom 40) I'll be working at this summer. I'm curious to what extent firm prestige matters and what things I can be doing now and early in my career practicing if I don't anticipate being at the firm for the long haul.

Kochel
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Re: In house transition

Postby Kochel » Wed Feb 20, 2013 3:41 pm

While there are many roads to in-house positions, one of the more common paths is to join the legal department of a company (even if not actually a client) in the industry in which the associate has practiced. This is probably especially true of companies in highly-regulated industries, around which law firms have devoted specialized practices. Think energy, financial services, telecomm, etc. Within those industries, in-house lawyers know which law firms are major players; Vault rankings won't matter. If you're not coming from one of those law firms, you'll need to persuade the hiring lawyer of your skills and portability of your background. So if you know which industries you like, you'll want to try to get assignments with the relevant practice groups early in your career at the law firm, to develop relationships with the partners and familiarity with the client base.

That said, every in-house legal department has use for generalists, and not every company acts in a highly-specialized industry. If I'm looking to hire a junior in-house attorney, I want to know that he/she will be capable of advancement in the future, and whether he/she will be able to contribute in other areas. Even if you're interested in a particular industry, try to obtain building-block corporate skills that will be able to supplement your industry expertise--governance, basic transactions, contract negotiation. Work in securities and M&A will give you those skills, even if it's just a few deals as a junior associate.

Anonymous User
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Re: In house transition

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 20, 2013 3:57 pm

Not the OP but thank you for the insight, Kochel. A few follow-up questions: (1) how much time, at minimum, must an associate have spent at a firm before you will consider him/her? (ie. I am curious about the extent to which you think the skills developed with more time at a firm are transferable to in-house work); and (2) would you consider a candidate with specialized law firm practice (e.g. regulatory rather than securities/M&A), or do you prefer someone who has spent the bulk of the time doing transactional work?

Anonymous User
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Re: In house transition

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 20, 2013 4:17 pm

I had dinner last week with a person who transitioned from one of the big Houston firms after around 4 years to an oil company. At his firm he had developed a niche practice around property rights and such (I wasn't paying too much attention) and the oil company needed an attorney with that background. At the place I'm working at now none of their attorneys knew about SEC filing rules so they went to one of their firms and hired an associate from there who knew what to do.

Kochel
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Re: In house transition

Postby Kochel » Wed Feb 20, 2013 4:25 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Not the OP but thank you for the insight, Kochel. A few follow-up questions: (1) how much time, at minimum, must an associate have spent at a firm before you will consider him/her? (ie. I am curious about the extent to which you think the skills developed with more time at a firm are transferable to in-house work); and (2) would you consider a candidate with specialized law firm practice (e.g. regulatory rather than securities/M&A), or do you prefer someone who has spent the bulk of the time doing transactional work?


I work at a financial services company. In hiring junior attorneys, we typically look for at least 2-3 years law firm work in our field (i.e., doing work in our subset of the financial services sector). That's the minimum amount of time needed to learn the basics of the regulatory environment. We'd consider someone with no industry expertise if (1) we couldn't find anyone with such expertise and (2) the candidate had several years (think 3-5) of other corporate experience (preference for transactional and securities). We would definitely prefer a candidate with the industry-specific knowledge, though, since so much of our work is driven by the requirements and rhythms of the regulatory environment.

BigLawer
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Re: In house transition

Postby BigLawer » Wed Feb 20, 2013 11:57 pm

Any idea what the average starting pay is for one of these in house positions? I know they will vary widely, but the individual in Houston for example... or in the financial sector? I have heard it can be a huge pay cut, wondering if sometimes in-house positions are not much of a pay cut

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jbiresq
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Re: In house transition

Postby jbiresq » Thu Feb 21, 2013 12:24 am

BigLawer wrote:Any idea what the average starting pay is for one of these in house positions? I know they will vary widely, but the individual in Houston for example... or in the financial sector? I have heard it can be a huge pay cut, wondering if sometimes in-house positions are not much of a pay cut


Obviously it's going to vary a lot but this may be a good guide: --LinkRemoved--

Kochel
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Re: In house transition

Postby Kochel » Thu Feb 21, 2013 12:02 pm

In my field within the financial sector, pay for a junior lawyer approximates what a junior-midlevel Biglaw associate makes. Which means that when he goes in-house, he might be taking a modest pay cut. Note, though, that raises aren't lockstep and they aren't as frequent as in Biglaw. More importantly, promotions are infrequent and you may plateau pretty early in terms of compensation. But if you do get promoted, the increases can be very significant, and you could be taking home what a very senior Biglaw associate makes, for half the hours.

Anecdotal evidence, as well as the chart linked to above, suggests that other industries vary significantly. But for many in-house lawyers, compensation is quite good. And never forget the non-monetary advantages of in-house work: lower stress, fewer hours, and no billable hours.




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