In-house Counsel at Fortune 50 Taking Questions

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Re: In-house Counsel at Fortune 50 Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Mar 08, 2015 2:56 pm

What advice do you have for a corporate associate about to start his/her first in-house job? The role will mostly support sales/marketing and finance. I'm a little nervous because it is going to be such a big transition from firm life and I really want t do a good job and be a productive member of the legal department. Thanks for this thread.

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Re: In-house Counsel at Fortune 50 Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Mar 08, 2015 8:51 pm

Anonymous User wrote:You talked about this briefly, but I was a little unclear on this point. Does your company ever hire people for a specific specialty with the expectation that those people will remain in that specialty? I gathered from your earlier statement that even those who get hired for a particular specialty end up becoming generalists at some point, but I wanted to clarify.

Also, do you think it's common for lawyers to be treated as general legal strategists in large companies? I was under the impression that someone who, for example, comes in as an employment lawyer will primarily be doing employment counseling and litigation management. I wonder how common it is for a person like that to be doing non-employment law things at a F500 company. I'm thinking of employment law in particular because I will most likely be doing this at my firm, but this is just one example. I can think of a number of lawyers who went to companies because their specialty was in demand, and I'm curious as to how many companies operate their in-house legal department like yours. I realize you can't speak to every company, but if you have a general sense of the way companies typically operate, I think it would be very helpful. Thanks!


Op: Yes, we usually hire into a particular specialty. You can remain in that specialty as a specialist. However, it is the usual path to switch a few times because 1) business needs change, and 2) upward mobility opportunities are many times not in your area. Additionally, a great manager commonly is familiar with a wide variety of practice areas, as many business issues incorporate many different legal areas and the context gained from several different roles helps.

To answer the second question, I know some do, I know some don't treat lawyers like business/legal strategists. This is something to research when looking at a company.

To give you more context regarding how legal strategist may lead to a business/law amalgamated role, think about entering as an employment law specialist. Maybe you focus on employment agreements and disputes in years 1 and 2. You then get to work on employment-related aspects of major deals in addition in year 3. Year 4 you are asked to advise on some immigration-related policy issues (maybe your company is having issues with the number of working visas for your expats in Nigeria for a major infrastructure project). You do a really good job on this project managing local counsel in successfully lobbying the Nigerian gov to change their immigration law. Your managers take notice of this acumen to manage a cross-border team with a lot of moving parts. So, an opportunity comes up to manage a Singapore legal team that is helping expand their subsidiary into Malaysia. You end up managing a team that includes commercial lawyers, IP lawyers, and antitrust lawyers. In addition to managng the team you take care of employment/immigration issues with local counsel. You also by default are on a senior working group with the Singapore subsidiary CEO, a corporate HR CVP, and a corporate finance VP. Your work at this point is like 50% legal management of the team, 30% pure specialist immigration/employment work, and 20% business strategy/management with the senior working group. This project takes two years, you are successful. The senior team really likes you and feels your business/corporate strategy ideas are very helpful. So, your next project is as a associate general counsel or VP managing expansion of the German subsidiary into Eastern Europe. At this point you are still going to be responsible for the legal aspects of this deal, but more than half of your work will be business-related and the rest will be managing other lawyers. You may occasionally work on an employment issue, sometimes at your desire, but generally are now more of a business person and legal manager. The timeline I just gave is pretty compressed, probably will take significantly longer, but this is an example of how you go from an employment specialist to a business strategy and legal manager.

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Re: In-house Counsel at Fortune 50 Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Mar 08, 2015 9:09 pm

Anonymous User wrote:What advice do you have for a corporate associate about to start his/her first in-house job? The role will mostly support sales/marketing and finance. I'm a little nervous because it is going to be such a big transition from firm life and I really want t do a good job and be a productive member of the legal department. Thanks for this thread.


Op: Sorry, stream of consciousness tips:

I would try to be as friendly and likeable as possible--people inhouse are less transitory than people in firms so relationships are important. Don't try to show that you know everything. Make as many connections in both legal and business teams as possible. Always try to add value by finding ways to assist others and connect aspects of your work to larger corporate goals. Try to get a feeling for organizational culture and mesh with it. This probably means being a little bit guarded until you get a feeling for cultural boundaries (things that are okay and things that piss people off). Over communicate--everyone is busy, so making your role as turn key as possible helps a bunch. Provide frequent status updates. Try hard to find resources, maybe even outside your team to help you get your job done right--this may include trainings or templates or manuals. Most importantly, find some internal allies--people that are willing to support and fight for you--this may be accomplished by taking on some extra work outside your discipline. Get to know the business and industry where you work--this context is key to provide excellent consulting advice/legal work. Finally, take advantage of all the inhouse perks--they are there to keep morale great and keep you positive.

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Re: In-house Counsel at Fortune 50 Taking Questions

Postby jhett » Sun Mar 08, 2015 9:23 pm

I asked this in the other thread with the 5th year that went in house, but I thought I'd get your opinion too:

What are some of your tips for in-house interviews? What are some topics or professional qualities to emphasize? For example, I know one thing they are usually concerned with is that you understand the business. Your role is not just to churn out legal work, but to think strategically about how you as a lawyer can boost the business side of things. How can I convey this (aside from just saying so)?

I ask because I recently interviewed for two in-house positions. I came close to getting both (top 3-5 finalist) but ultimately didn't get either. I'm now at a boutique firm (better hours than my big law firm), but my ultimate goal is still in-house.

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Re: In-house Counsel at Fortune 50 Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Mar 08, 2015 11:19 pm

jhett wrote:I asked this in the other thread with the 5th year that went in house, but I thought I'd get your opinion too:

What are some of your tips for in-house interviews? What are some topics or professional qualities to emphasize? For example, I know one thing they are usually concerned with is that you understand the business. Your role is not just to churn out legal work, but to think strategically about how you as a lawyer can boost the business side of things. How can I convey this (aside from just saying so)?

I ask because I recently interviewed for two in-house positions. I came close to getting both (top 3-5 finalist) but ultimately didn't get either. I'm now at a boutique firm (better hours than my big law firm), but my ultimate goal is still in-house.


To be honest, I don't have a ton of insight. In the hiring that I've participated in, we only saw them after a rigorous hr vetting process. I'd say that people we personally liked was a big part. So, it is part about finding someone you'd like to work with. Additionally, competence is important too. Basically making the team feel that in addition to being qualified, you'd be able to add something the team needs. This is all pretty vague, but that is hiring in a nutshell--be likeable, fit well, and impress people-- all of this is pretty subjective so go into each interview flexible and able to get a sense for what they want to hear from you without a rigid script.

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Re: In-house Counsel at Fortune 50 Taking Questions

Postby InHouseF50 » Wed Mar 11, 2015 8:55 pm

Hey guys, OP here.

I finally got around to creating a throw away account. Feel free to PM me directly as well as ask additional questions here.

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Re: In-house Counsel at Fortune 50 Taking Questions

Postby InHouseF50 » Wed Mar 11, 2015 8:59 pm

One additional tip I'd give to 2 and 3Ls is to keep abreast/reach out regarding inhouse hiring. I know of a few big guys that hire directly now, including hp, marvel/possibly other Disney subs, IBM, Kroger, and a couple of the big Ibanks.

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Re: In-house Counsel at Fortune 50 Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 13, 2015 5:25 pm

thanks OP for this awesome thread.

I think its wonderful that you were able to get into a top-5 law school and have your career develope like it has. Personally, your set up is my dream job. I hope to one day be working in-house at a Fortune 50 or 500 company. However, for those of us that are more middle of the road (i.e. i go to a T3 school, top 20 percent) what advise can you give me to get to the level you are at now? what steps should i take? Would a government job be more benefitial to eventually go in-house as apposed to a mid to small sized law firm? anything else you can tell me would be highly highly appreciated.

Thank you

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Re: In-house Counsel at Fortune 50 Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Mar 14, 2015 11:43 am

I just interviewed for an in house job. It's a rapidly growing company in a rapidly growing industry. They have a relatively big in house department -- 50+ attorneys. I interviewed with all of the attorneys in the unit/department/whatever I'd be moving into. I think it went well; we seemed to hit it off, and one of the attorneys specifically said that after a bunch of candidates, I was the only one with the preferred years experience plus legal field experience plus industry experience. (They want someone with very specific experience for all of these, like someone who has done eight-plus years of securities regulatory work with some time in government.) So I wouldn't be surprised if something came out of it (but also if not -- that's the way these things work!).

Anyway, here's the "but." In house friends around town have said that "oh, they work hard there." One of the attorneys looked absolutely exhausted. Another one made a point to emphasize that this wasn't the place if I wanted to work forty hour weeks. So there are definitely major warning signs. On the plus side, the pay likely will be above market -- Assistant GCs in my industry in my geographic market are probably in the $140k-$160k band, and this place is rumored to be paying closer to $200k with a 10-20% bonus. The work is substantively interesting (though it's interesting in private practice too -- I'm lucky to work in a fun and hot field), and the attorneys in the unit have a lot of interaction with senior executives.

So. Are the warning signs just too much? I have other alternatives -- I'm reasonably happy where I'm at (the pay isn't great and there's always the riskiness of firm life, but everyone likes me and I do good work in an area they can't easily replace), and like I said, it's a hot field, so I get calls about moving pretty regularly. (On the down side, it's a field where I mostly get called in to work for other people's clients, so my portable book is fairly small.)

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Re: In-house Counsel at Fortune 50 Taking Questions

Postby InHouseF50 » Sun Mar 15, 2015 11:25 am

Anonymous User wrote:thanks OP for this awesome thread.

I think its wonderful that you were able to get into a top-5 law school and have your career develope like it has. Personally, your set up is my dream job. I hope to one day be working in-house at a Fortune 50 or 500 company. However, for those of us that are more middle of the road (i.e. i go to a T3 school, top 20 percent) what advise can you give me to get to the level you are at now? what steps should i take? Would a government job be more benefitial to eventually go in-house as apposed to a mid to small sized law firm? anything else you can tell me would be highly highly appreciated.

Thank you


The most reasonable path from your position is to get a job at a firm that does work for big/mid companies. Midsized and small firms do place inhouse to the extent that they do work for those firms. You need to figure out where you cam get this experience--you'd be surprised who does work for big companies.

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Re: In-house Counsel at Fortune 50 Taking Questions

Postby InHouseF50 » Sun Mar 15, 2015 11:29 am

Anonymous User wrote:I just interviewed for an in house job. It's a rapidly growing company in a rapidly growing industry. They have a relatively big in house department -- 50+ attorneys. I interviewed with all of the attorneys in the unit/department/whatever I'd be moving into. I think it went well; we seemed to hit it off, and one of the attorneys specifically said that after a bunch of candidates, I was the only one with the preferred years experience plus legal field experience plus industry experience. (They want someone with very specific experience for all of these, like someone who has done eight-plus years of securities regulatory work with some time in government.) So I wouldn't be surprised if something came out of it (but also if not -- that's the way these things work!).

Anyway, here's the "but." In house friends around town have said that "oh, they work hard there." One of the attorneys looked absolutely exhausted. Another one made a point to emphasize that this wasn't the place if I wanted to work forty hour weeks. So there are definitely major warning signs. On the plus side, the pay likely will be above market -- Assistant GCs in my industry in my geographic market are probably in the $140k-$160k band, and this place is rumored to be paying closer to $200k with a 10-20% bonus. The work is substantively interesting (though it's interesting in private practice too -- I'm lucky to work in a fun and hot field), and the attorneys in the unit have a lot of interaction with senior executives.

So. Are the warning signs just too much? I have other alternatives -- I'm reasonably happy where I'm at (the pay isn't great and there's always the riskiness of firm life, but everyone likes me and I do good work in an area they can't easily replace), and like I said, it's a hot field, so I get calls about moving pretty regularly. (On the down side, it's a field where I mostly get called in to work for other people's clients, so my portable book is fairly small.)


It is hard to tell sometimes without seeing it for yourself. I would recommend also trying to figure out if your particular group is managed that way. Sometimes it is just a few managers and not a whole org culture. Other times it is by nature of the group (lit or deal support). Keep feeling it out. You don't have to accept until you have an offer deadline.

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Re: In-house Counsel at Fortune 50 Taking Questions

Postby InHouseF50 » Sun Mar 15, 2015 11:43 am

I'll be brief, but I just wanted to tell a story from inhouse. So, before law school a professor had me reach out to a major partner at a firm who was an old friend of his. He gave me a soft intro and everything. The partner completely ignored my email. I also wrote a junior partner in the same office who graduated from my UG and had my same major. Ignored again. I wrote them again during 1L summer, as I was summering at a firm in the same building. Ignored again. I wrote them during 2L summer, as I was hoping to find another job once signs came that my summer firm was imploding. I wrote them 3L when a position opened in their office, and another attorney in the firm recommended me to them. No answer again, and again, and again. Not even a rejection letter or "sorry, busy."

I saw the major partner a few days ago. His firm is one of our firms. He now is the one hustling to take me out to lunch and is trying to get on my good side. It is kind of weird, because I can remember trying so hard over like 3 years to get in contact/chat with them. Kind of surreal. One good thing about being inhouse though, you own the firm partners even if you are some 30-year-old kid with like two or three years experience.

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Re: In-house Counsel at Fortune 50 Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Mar 16, 2015 1:45 pm

I just got an offer for in-house at a F50 straight out of law school. The position sounds great, but would have no litigation -- and I'm one of those law students who came to school dreaming about being in a courtroom (and have some experience with litigation, which I thoroughly enjoyed). My question is whether I'm completely foreclosing that opportunity by taking this job. I'm not sure I'd be entirely destroyed by this, but I'm just curious if you see many lawyers going transactional --> litigation as well.

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Re: In-house Counsel at Fortune 50 Taking Questions

Postby TTTooKewl » Mon Mar 16, 2015 2:47 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I just got an offer for in-house at a F50 straight out of law school. The position sounds great, but would have no litigation -- and I'm one of those law students who came to school dreaming about being in a courtroom (and have some experience with litigation, which I thoroughly enjoyed). My question is whether I'm completely foreclosing that opportunity by taking this job. I'm not sure I'd be entirely destroyed by this, but I'm just curious if you see many lawyers going transactional --> litigation as well.


If you don't mind, I have some basic questions and would appreciate a PM.

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Re: In-house Counsel at Fortune 50 Taking Questions

Postby InHouseF50 » Tue Mar 17, 2015 12:55 am

Anonymous User wrote:I just got an offer for in-house at a F50 straight out of law school. The position sounds great, but would have no litigation -- and I'm one of those law students who came to school dreaming about being in a courtroom (and have some experience with litigation, which I thoroughly enjoyed). My question is whether I'm completely foreclosing that opportunity by taking this job. I'm not sure I'd be entirely destroyed by this, but I'm just curious if you see many lawyers going transactional --> litigation as well.


Good question. I haven't seen many doing so directly (e.g., functional transactional attorney to functional litigation attorney). In-house you usually don't litigate directly though (there are exceptions in both types of companies and roles). You manage a biglaw firm who does litigating for you. That means you will be writing/reviewing case documents, but probably won't be making arguments before the court. While not court, you may appear before regulators, Congress, and in arbitration, but none of these are the same as trial arguments.

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Re: In-house Counsel at Fortune 50 Taking Questions

Postby banjo » Tue Mar 17, 2015 1:06 am

InHouseF50 wrote:I'll be brief, but I just wanted to tell a story from inhouse. So, before law school a professor had me reach out to a major partner at a firm who was an old friend of his. He gave me a soft intro and everything. The partner completely ignored my email. I also wrote a junior partner in the same office who graduated from my UG and had my same major. Ignored again. I wrote them again during 1L summer, as I was summering at a firm in the same building. Ignored again. I wrote them during 2L summer, as I was hoping to find another job once signs came that my summer firm was imploding. I wrote them 3L when a position opened in their office, and another attorney in the firm recommended me to them. No answer again, and again, and again. Not even a rejection letter or "sorry, busy."

I saw the major partner a few days ago. His firm is one of our firms. He now is the one hustling to take me out to lunch and is trying to get on my good side. It is kind of weird, because I can remember trying so hard over like 3 years to get in contact/chat with them. Kind of surreal. One good thing about being inhouse though, you own the firm partners even if you are some 30-year-old kid with like two or three years experience.


Haha this is actually a pretty good story.

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Re: In-house Counsel at Fortune 50 Taking Questions

Postby InHouseF50 » Wed Mar 18, 2015 10:08 am

banjo wrote:
InHouseF50 wrote:I'll be brief, but I just wanted to tell a story from inhouse. So, before law school a professor had me reach out to a major partner at a firm who was an old friend of his. He gave me a soft intro and everything. The partner completely ignored my email. I also wrote a junior partner in the same office who graduated from my UG and had my same major. Ignored again. I wrote them again during 1L summer, as I was summering at a firm in the same building. Ignored again. I wrote them during 2L summer, as I was hoping to find another job once signs came that my summer firm was imploding. I wrote them 3L when a position opened in their office, and another attorney in the firm recommended me to them. No answer again, and again, and again. Not even a rejection letter or "sorry, busy."

I saw the major partner a few days ago. His firm is one of our firms. He now is the one hustling to take me out to lunch and is trying to get on my good side. It is kind of weird, because I can remember trying so hard over like 3 years to get in contact/chat with them. Kind of surreal. One good thing about being inhouse though, you own the firm partners even if you are some 30-year-old kid with like two or three years experience.


Haha this is actually a pretty good story.


Thanks man, I think it was kind of therapeutic for me--it is easy to lose perspective as a law student. I mean, I had a good number of callbacks, probably more than I deserved, but got rejected hundreds of times. I did a mass mail with over 200 recipients with no bites and like 20 real responses. It is easy to lose perspective, to think that all of these rejections somehow reflect on your self worth or qualifications. No, it is really that most don't care about you unless you bring them something. It is a buyers market, and firm partners have tons to worry about. Those willing to network with and help law students are saints.




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