In-house right out of school vs. typical biglaw first year

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In-house right out of school vs. typical biglaw first year

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Apr 21, 2014 1:22 pm

Anonymous because people know me here.

Before I start, I know I am incredibly lucky to even have a decision like this to agonize over. I wallowed in the vale for a long time and I was blessed to have things break my way here at the end of my 3L year.

For background, I have focused my law school career on general a corporate/transactional practice with an emphasis on banking law and financial regulation. I was offered a position as an entry-level attorney in the legal division of a bulge bracket investment bank with offices in a great secondary city in my home state. I would be doing really sophisticated work with a lot of smart people. The bank has a training program in place and is really intent on training its young attorneys.

A firm to which I applied months ago recently reached out to me to ask if I was still interested. This firm is in DC and and is a very well respected financial services boutique. I'm not sure what they pay, but I imagine it would be slightly below market but with a better work/life tradeoff that boutiques often try to play up (which I take with a grain of salt).

I'm agonizing over this. It's very speculative at this point (haven't even interviewed or even called them back to let them know I am interested), but if it came down to choose, what would be a better choice? The money at the investment bank will be good, but not nearly as good as DC biglaw/boutique pay rates. Then again, starting out in house will give me a much better quality of life, even when compared to a boutique (it's DC after all). For what it's worth, I'm debt free and would be happy in either city. The secondary city is smaller but is in my home state (and is a city I am very familiar with), although obviously DC is a tier 1 city and would be fun since I could afford it. The cost of living in the city with the bank job would be much, much lower, maybe even close enough to call the difference in pay a wash (not counting for bonuses and stuff, about which I have no clue).

Does starting out in-house severely limit future options? Even if it is a global, bulge bracket bank? Would an offer from a great firm in the center of the financial regulatory universe be too good to pass up? I would be glad to add more details to help the hypo as long as they don't get too personal.

rad lulz

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Re: In-house right out of school vs. typical biglaw first year

Postby rad lulz » Mon Apr 21, 2014 1:34 pm

I'd take the firm

You start in house you're likely to stay in house

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kalvano

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Re: In-house right out of school vs. typical biglaw first year

Postby kalvano » Mon Apr 21, 2014 1:35 pm

The in-house job sounds a lot like something you would want after 2 years of working at the law firm. I don't know about limiting future options, though.

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Re: In-house right out of school vs. typical biglaw first year

Postby transferror » Mon Apr 21, 2014 3:20 pm

How significant is your debt?

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JenDarby

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Re: In-house right out of school vs. typical biglaw first year

Postby JenDarby » Mon Apr 21, 2014 3:23 pm

I'm in-house at a bank and I love it. I also focused all my courses around corporate work, with an emphasis on banking law and financial regulation. I've thought about whether I would want a firm job given the opportunity, since I do think it leaves you with better exit options, but I really don't think I would. My quality of life here is amazing and I am doing the kind of work I would ideally like to do. I have a salary that is not dependent on billing hours, and there is still a fair room for growth in salary from my starting salary (which I am entirely happy with). If I was at a firm, I am fairly confident I would want to move in-house sooner rather than later anyways.

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Re: In-house right out of school vs. typical biglaw first year

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Apr 21, 2014 3:36 pm

OP here. Thanks for all of your input, friends.

transferror wrote:How significant is your debt?


I know I buried it in there, but I will be graduating debt free. Which definitely means not as much pressure to just jump at the highest-paying gig.

rad lulz wrote:I'd take the firm

You start in house you're likely to stay in house


Thanks, Rad. I don't think I'd necessarily mind staying in house in some capacity, be it with this bank or with another, as long as my compensation grows in conjunction with my seniority. The prospect of never being able to move to a law firm is what gives me pause, as I know the more senior you are in a law firm, the more your value is tied to the ability to bring in clients (which someone who has spent his career in-house will likely not be able to do). But is it really impossible to move to the government, or maybe to a more senior position in a boutique bank? JenDarby, maybe you could comment here -- without giving too much detail, what is the size and reputation of your bank? Is the legal department huge? Could you see yourself someday being attractive on the market for a more senior position at a smaller investment bank?
Last edited by Anonymous User on Mon Apr 21, 2014 4:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: In-house right out of school vs. typical biglaw first year

Postby Dafaq » Mon Apr 21, 2014 3:38 pm

JenDarby wrote:I'm in-house at a bank and I love it. I also focused all my courses around corporate work, with an emphasis on banking law and financial regulation. I've thought about whether I would want a firm job given the opportunity, since I do think it leaves you with better exit options, but I really don't think I would. My quality of life here is amazing and I am doing the kind of work I would ideally like to do. I have a salary that is not dependent on billing hours, and there is still a fair room for growth in salary from my starting salary (which I am entirely happy with). If I was at a firm, I am fairly confident I would want to move in-house sooner rather than later anyways.

Did you land an in-house position as a 3L and how did you locate an in-house position? OCI, mass mailing, respond to an ad, etc.? I am heading to a firm but in-house has always intrigued me.

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Re: In-house right out of school vs. typical biglaw first year

Postby JenDarby » Mon Apr 21, 2014 4:01 pm

Anon, I would qualify it as a large bank. If you are in the industry and I gave a descriptor you could easily guess it. That being said our legal department is under 20 at my location. I don't think a move to a smaller firm would be impossible but I also don't think it would be likely. When you are in-house you outsource many things to firms and you aren't operating on any form of billing, nor do you have distinct clients. It's a very different environment that just doesn't make you too appealing to a firm. I think it would be possible to move to some other non-firm transactional position, such as maybe a government position.

Dafaq wrote:
JenDarby wrote:I'm in-house at a bank and I love it. I also focused all my courses around corporate work, with an emphasis on banking law and financial regulation. I've thought about whether I would want a firm job given the opportunity, since I do think it leaves you with better exit options, but I really don't think I would. My quality of life here is amazing and I am doing the kind of work I would ideally like to do. I have a salary that is not dependent on billing hours, and there is still a fair room for growth in salary from my starting salary (which I am entirely happy with). If I was at a firm, I am fairly confident I would want to move in-house sooner rather than later anyways.

Did you land an in-house position as a 3L and how did you locate an in-house position? OCI, mass mailing, respond to an ad, etc.? I am heading to a firm but in-house has always intrigued me.


I found this position on my own during 2L by scouring the internet for corporate in-house opportunities. I found the position on the bank's careers page. It was supposed to be just a summer position but I have stayed through inertia. From my experience here, it's very hard to get hired on, but once you are here they will work to keep you.

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Re: In-house right out of school vs. typical biglaw first year

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Apr 21, 2014 4:06 pm

JenDarby wrote:Anon, I would qualify it as a large bank. If you are in the industry and I gave a descriptor you could easily guess it. That being said our legal department is under 20 at my location. I don't think a move to a smaller firm would be impossible but I also don't think it would be likely. When you are in-house you outsource many things to firms and you aren't operating on any form of billing, nor do you have distinct clients. It's a very different environment that just doesn't make you too appealing to a firm. I think it would be possible to move to some other non-firm transactional position, such as maybe a government position.


OP here. Thanks Jen. To clarify, when I said moving to a more senior position at a smaller firm, I meant a more senior position at a smaller bank/investment firm (I've gone back to edit where I said "firm" -- that word could be misleading in these contexts).

Would you mind discussing this over PM? We can try to leave it as vague as possible but I would love to pick your brain. Thanks for your input either way.

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Re: In-house right out of school vs. typical biglaw first year

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Apr 21, 2014 4:17 pm

In my opinion, granted I'm a 1L doing an in house this summer, anecdotal evidence from family who was in-house at a large international company, one of the ideal career tracts is firm (2-5 years) --> in house (various positions/companies) --> make GC at said company --> BoD --> GC at said company and Of Counsel at major firm --> retire.

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Re: In-house right out of school vs. typical biglaw first year

Postby JenDarby » Mon Apr 21, 2014 4:22 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
JenDarby wrote:Anon, I would qualify it as a large bank. If you are in the industry and I gave a descriptor you could easily guess it. That being said our legal department is under 20 at my location. I don't think a move to a smaller firm would be impossible but I also don't think it would be likely. When you are in-house you outsource many things to firms and you aren't operating on any form of billing, nor do you have distinct clients. It's a very different environment that just doesn't make you too appealing to a firm. I think it would be possible to move to some other non-firm transactional position, such as maybe a government position.


OP here. Thanks Jen. To clarify, when I said moving to a more senior position at a smaller firm, I meant a more senior position at a smaller bank/investment firm (I've gone back to edit where I said "firm" -- that word could be misleading in these contexts).

Would you mind discussing this over PM? We can try to leave it as vague as possible but I would love to pick your brain. Thanks for your input either way.

Definitely feel free to PM me! I will broadly answer here as well.

I absolutely think you could move to a more senior position at another bank or investment firm. We just hired a new attorney for a senior position and he was previously at a slightly larger bank, but in a more junior position. Also I have noticed that counsel at other banks, asset manegement firms, etc. somewhat regularly look at my linkedin while we are working on a project together. I think you could use your position to network with others in the field.

Nearly every attorney at my bank started at a top firm, so I feel very lucky to have managed a position here. It is clearly the more traditional route to start at a firm, but starting at a firm does not mean you will be able to move to an in-house position. On the other hand, once you are in-house you gain the skills desirable for in-house counsel so I don't think it would be that difficuly to move in-house elsewhere with those skills.
Last edited by JenDarby on Fri May 09, 2014 11:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: In-house right out of school vs. typical biglaw first year

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Apr 25, 2014 8:01 am

To the OP: Do you have any suggestions for finding Financial Regulatory boutiques in D.C. and NY? I know it's too much to ask you to disclose the firm that sent you interest, but any tips on finding such firms would be helpful. My own background is very similar to yours 3L, IB In-House NY summer experience, but obviously with no offer from an in-house department or firm.

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Re: In-house right out of school vs. typical biglaw first year

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Apr 25, 2014 2:33 pm

Anonymous User wrote:To the OP: Do you have any suggestions for finding Financial Regulatory boutiques in D.C. and NY? I know it's too much to ask you to disclose the firm that sent you interest, but any tips on finding such firms would be helpful. My own background is very similar to yours 3L, IB In-House NY summer experience, but obviously with no offer from an in-house department or firm.


Seek out the firms that your summer employer used and check chambers for firms that specialize in the field you are looking for.



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