In-house as a litigator

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In-house as a litigator

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Nov 30, 2017 12:59 pm

To those with experience shifting from litigation to in-house, how did you do it? I'm feeling a little discouraged at the moment. Earlier this week, I went to a networking event, and one of the GCs there told me (in a very nice way) that he almost always hires corporate associates. I then checked with a lateral associate at my own firm, who while very impressive on paper, said she had trouble finding an in-house position due to having specialized in a specific type of litigation. Though I'm junior and in general lit, I still have no corporate experience -- I don't know the first thing about drafting contracts, and I haven't done a spreadsheet since law school. (Though I really like my firm, it doesn't have much of a corporate department, so there's not much I can do here to get the necessary experience.)

Is there something I can do at this point to improve my chances of getting an in-house job someday? Thank you.

johndhi
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Re: In-house as a litigator

Postby johndhi » Fri Dec 01, 2017 7:32 pm

Discourage not, young litigator. I’m a former litigator and now in-house product counsel. There are jobs and you’ll be able to find one if you build your interview skills and resume in the right way. It takes some time to do that – people told it to me, and I experienced it. It also takes some luck, but so does anything.

While at the law firm, I recommend getting a broad range of experience. This way you can tailor your resume to the industry/legal issues facing the companies that you’re applying to. For example, if you do 100% patent litigation defense, it’s easy to write a patent defense resume, but if you do 80% patent litigation defense and 20% products liability work, it’s a lot easier to talk up your products liability experience and your resume is basically identical to the patent litigation one you had before. It also helps to work with clients in a variety of industries – for example, if you work with some heavy hitters in patent litigation defense (like a few hot tech companies or Fortune 500ers), putting those names on your resume when applying to similar companies will impress them regardless. E.g., it tells the hiring person that you know how those companies “work,” or you’re “Fortune 500 tested” or whatever. You could also try to get experience in hot in-house fields, like privacy/cybersecurity.

While crafting the language of your resume, think more broadly and in terms of the perspective of someone in-house. Any legal team is dedicated to “assessing and mitigating risk” – this is exactly what litigators are doing in their cases, we just usually call it “preparing for depositions” or whatever. So, describe it in in-house terms. “Depo prep” becomes “establish trusted relationships with client’s senior finance and marketing personnel; assess client’s exposure to consumer protection liability,” etc. Look at the job postings – those are often written by in-house lawyers so you can get some view into how they think.

As for interview prep, you’ll get better just by doing them, but it’s also worth trying to add some industry lingo into your vocabulary. Do a lot of research (something you should be better at than all other types of attorneys) on the company you’re interviewing with and impress them that way. Show them you don’t just think in terms of case law, but also in terms of business impact.

These types of things aren’t going to turn you into a commercial contracts attorney or a corporate securities guy/gal, but those jobs are lame and you, as a litigator, wouldn’t enjoy them anyhow. But it will make you look hirable for broader “corporate counsel” roles and even for the in-house litigation roles, or product counsel.

Feel free to ask questions and I’ll try to remember to check back.

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Re: In-house as a litigator

Postby rpupkin » Fri Dec 01, 2017 10:49 pm

The above is good advice. I'll just add a caveat about this:

While crafting the language of your resume, think more broadly and in terms of the perspective of someone in-house. Any legal team is dedicated to “assessing and mitigating risk” – this is exactly what litigators are doing in their cases, we just usually call it “preparing for depositions” or whatever. So, describe it in in-house terms. “Depo prep” becomes “establish trusted relationships with client’s senior finance and marketing personnel; assess client’s exposure to consumer protection liability,” etc.


You've got to know your audience. For many in-house jobs--particularly jobs at smaller companies--your primary audience will be folks on the business side of things. I think the quoted paragraph makes sense for those positions. But it might make less sense for a company with a large in-house lit group, where your audience could be a group of ex-big-law litigators. When preparing your resume for those positions, I'm not sure that "established trusted relationships with client’s senior finance and marketing personnel" is better than "prepared and defended witnesses for deposition."

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Re: In-house as a litigator

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Dec 02, 2017 12:11 am

I recently interviewed for GC at a fortune 25. Wonderful company and people. Thought the interview went very well. I did not receive an offer. I was told by the head-hunter that it was a longshot because I am a third year. The thing is, the company knew that going in and still paid for my visit. Later learned that I was up against a fifth and a sixth year. The question here is, is it incredibly difficult to land a GC as someone who is not at least a fifth year?

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Re: In-house as a litigator

Postby UVA2B » Sat Dec 02, 2017 12:14 am

Anonymous User wrote:I recently interviewed for GC at a fortune 25. Wonderful company and people. Thought the interview went very well. I did not receive an offer. I was told by the head-hunter that it was a longshot because I am a third year. The thing is, the company knew that going in and still paid for my visit. Later learned that I was up against a fifth and a sixth year. The question here is, is it incredibly difficult to land a GC as someone who is not at least a fifth year?


Can we assume you mean in the GC's office here, and not an actual interview to be a GC at a massive company? Cause otherwise this is just silly.

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Re: In-house as a litigator

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Dec 02, 2017 1:17 am

UVA2B wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I recently interviewed for GC at a fortune 25. Wonderful company and people. Thought the interview went very well. I did not receive an offer. I was told by the head-hunter that it was a longshot because I am a third year. The thing is, the company knew that going in and still paid for my visit. Later learned that I was up against a fifth and a sixth year. The question here is, is it incredibly difficult to land a GC as someone who is not at least a fifth year?


Can we assume you mean in the GC's office here, and not an actual interview to be a GC at a massive company? Cause otherwise this is just silly.

Not sure what “GC office here means.” But yes, I accepted their invite to interview at their company headquarters. For clarity, my title would have been GC, one of several on staff.

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UVA2B
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Re: In-house as a litigator

Postby UVA2B » Sat Dec 02, 2017 1:21 am

Anonymous User wrote:
UVA2B wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I recently interviewed for GC at a fortune 25. Wonderful company and people. Thought the interview went very well. I did not receive an offer. I was told by the head-hunter that it was a longshot because I am a third year. The thing is, the company knew that going in and still paid for my visit. Later learned that I was up against a fifth and a sixth year. The question here is, is it incredibly difficult to land a GC as someone who is not at least a fifth year?


Can we assume you mean in the GC's office here, and not an actual interview to be a GC at a massive company? Cause otherwise this is just silly.

Not sure what “GC office here means.” But yes, I accepted their invite to interview at their company headquarters. For clarity, my title would have been GC, one of several.


I'm probably misunderstanding the structure of the legal department you interviewed with. I was interpreting GC to be a senior legal position in the company, not one of several/many lawyers working at the company with attendant hierarchy.

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Re: In-house as a litigator

Postby 1styearlateral » Mon Dec 04, 2017 5:14 pm

Is it worth considering attorney positions with start ups where you can build on general corporate skills that you otherwise would not get being a litigator? Leaving the security of my law firm for the unknown that is the start up world seems like a huge risk. I’m interested in the OP as well but generally see openings looking for 3+ years of corporate exp. FWIW I have some cyber/privacy exp. but that doesn’t seem to help.

johndhi
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Re: In-house as a litigator

Postby johndhi » Tue Dec 05, 2017 6:08 pm

1styearlateral wrote:Is it worth considering attorney positions with start ups where you can build on general corporate skills that you otherwise would not get being a litigator? Leaving the security of my law firm for the unknown that is the start up world seems like a huge risk. I’m interested in the OP as well but generally see openings looking for 3+ years of corporate exp. FWIW I have some cyber/privacy exp. but that doesn’t seem to help.


What type of job do you want? I'm not really clear on what your desire is here. If you want to be an in-house litigator at a large company, then no, getting corporate experience at a startup probably isn't the way to do that. In the SF Bay Area, though, funded startups are able to pay you as much or more than a lot of the big companies... so it just depends what you're looking for.

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Re: In-house as a litigator

Postby 1styearlateral » Thu Dec 07, 2017 11:22 am

johndhi wrote:
1styearlateral wrote:Is it worth considering attorney positions with start ups where you can build on general corporate skills that you otherwise would not get being a litigator? Leaving the security of my law firm for the unknown that is the start up world seems like a huge risk. I’m interested in the OP as well but generally see openings looking for 3+ years of corporate exp. FWIW I have some cyber/privacy exp. but that doesn’t seem to help.


What type of job do you want? I'm not really clear on what your desire is here. If you want to be an in-house litigator at a large company, then no, getting corporate experience at a startup probably isn't the way to do that. In the SF Bay Area, though, funded startups are able to pay you as much or more than a lot of the big companies... so it just depends what you're looking for.

Not every company has the resources to employ an entire legal department, let alone a litigation department. And going in house isn't something you just decide to do and then do... it's extremely competitive, especially in the NYC/SV/SF/LA markets. I figured a position with a small startup (as their only attorney), would be a good way to get some experience I otherwise would not as a litigator in addition to some business experience, which most attorneys don't get unless they're an equity partner or hang their own shingle.

FWIW, the specific startup that I am interested in would need plenty of corporate-esq work but also someone with litigation experience in my niche practice area.

johndhi
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Re: In-house as a litigator

Postby johndhi » Fri Dec 08, 2017 1:12 pm

1styearlateral wrote:
johndhi wrote:
1styearlateral wrote:Is it worth considering attorney positions with start ups where you can build on general corporate skills that you otherwise would not get being a litigator? Leaving the security of my law firm for the unknown that is the start up world seems like a huge risk. I’m interested in the OP as well but generally see openings looking for 3+ years of corporate exp. FWIW I have some cyber/privacy exp. but that doesn’t seem to help.


What type of job do you want? I'm not really clear on what your desire is here. If you want to be an in-house litigator at a large company, then no, getting corporate experience at a startup probably isn't the way to do that. In the SF Bay Area, though, funded startups are able to pay you as much or more than a lot of the big companies... so it just depends what you're looking for.

Not every company has the resources to employ an entire legal department, let alone a litigation department. And going in house isn't something you just decide to do and then do... it's extremely competitive, especially in the NYC/SV/SF/LA markets. I figured a position with a small startup (as their only attorney), would be a good way to get some experience I otherwise would not as a litigator in addition to some business experience, which most attorneys don't get unless they're an equity partner or hang their own shingle.

FWIW, the specific startup that I am interested in would need plenty of corporate-esq work but also someone with litigation experience in my niche practice area.


Not sure how we got into an adversarial conversation here (probably because we're both litigators) but let me try to take a step back.

I was trying to answer whether it's "worth considering" a general corporate job at a startup. I think the answer to that depends on what your long term goals are. From my perspective, the pros of that type of role are those you identified -- new experience, get corporate work on your resume, understand how you like working in-house, etc. The cons are that it doesn't build certain other experience that you might be interested in having -- e.g., being a senior associate at a law firm, a chance to make partner at a law firm, or being one of the specialized litigators at a big company (e.g., Google, Uber, whatever).

From my perspective, an in-house job like that sounds more interesting than trying to make partner or being an in-house pure litigator -- although I can't say I'm particularly into commercial contracting or fundraising type work -- again, I'm a product counsel. But my perspective isn't the same as everyone else's.

1styearlateral
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Re: In-house as a litigator

Postby 1styearlateral » Fri Dec 08, 2017 2:04 pm

johndhi wrote:
1styearlateral wrote:
johndhi wrote:
1styearlateral wrote:Is it worth considering attorney positions with start ups where you can build on general corporate skills that you otherwise would not get being a litigator? Leaving the security of my law firm for the unknown that is the start up world seems like a huge risk. I’m interested in the OP as well but generally see openings looking for 3+ years of corporate exp. FWIW I have some cyber/privacy exp. but that doesn’t seem to help.


What type of job do you want? I'm not really clear on what your desire is here. If you want to be an in-house litigator at a large company, then no, getting corporate experience at a startup probably isn't the way to do that. In the SF Bay Area, though, funded startups are able to pay you as much or more than a lot of the big companies... so it just depends what you're looking for.

Not every company has the resources to employ an entire legal department, let alone a litigation department. And going in house isn't something you just decide to do and then do... it's extremely competitive, especially in the NYC/SV/SF/LA markets. I figured a position with a small startup (as their only attorney), would be a good way to get some experience I otherwise would not as a litigator in addition to some business experience, which most attorneys don't get unless they're an equity partner or hang their own shingle.

FWIW, the specific startup that I am interested in would need plenty of corporate-esq work but also someone with litigation experience in my niche practice area.


Not sure how we got into an adversarial conversation here (probably because we're both litigators) but let me try to take a step back.

I was trying to answer whether it's "worth considering" a general corporate job at a startup. I think the answer to that depends on what your long term goals are. From my perspective, the pros of that type of role are those you identified -- new experience, get corporate work on your resume, understand how you like working in-house, etc. The cons are that it doesn't build certain other experience that you might be interested in having -- e.g., being a senior associate at a law firm, a chance to make partner at a law firm, or being one of the specialized litigators at a big company (e.g., Google, Uber, whatever).

From my perspective, an in-house job like that sounds more interesting than trying to make partner or being an in-house pure litigator -- although I can't say I'm particularly into commercial contracting or fundraising type work -- again, I'm a product counsel. But my perspective isn't the same as everyone else's.

I don't think it's adversarial at all and I appreciate your input/thoughts.

I agree though about the pros/cons of in-house at a startup and that being a partner isn't really something I'm interested in. I think you're right, more generally speaking in-house corporate work isn't going to help me do in-house litigation somewhere else. But I think for this specific position I would be able to continue growing my litigation experience but also get my hands wet in other areas I normally wouldn't get the opportunity to at a law firm or in-house doing strictly litigation.




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